U.S. 1’s 25th Part II: Accidental Spokespeople

Your company has what Rhohit Bhargava calls “accidental spokespeople,” the employees or customers who speak for your brand – often without you knowing it or approving it. Your challenge is to find ways to embrace those individuals.

That’s the gist of Chapter II of Bhargava’s “Personality Not Included.” I’m relating his points to U.S. 1 Newspaper’s silver anniversary, and you can apply the same tips to your own firm.

An example of an “accidental spokesperson” is Jared Fogle, who famously lost weight by eating Subway turkey sandwiches and became – despite lots of resistance from the company’s suits – an advertising icon.

An example of an intentional spokesperson is a company founder, whose personality imbues the company at carefully chosen opportunities. For instance, Wally Amos of Famous Amos cookies or Craig Newmark of Craigslist.

As a newspaper, U.S. 1 is fabulously positioned to showcase its accidental spokespeople, its writers and freelancers. For instance, sometimes staff editors Jamie Saxon and Scott Morgan will write personal columns. You can tell it’s a column, not an article, because it doesn’t have a regular head. Instead it has a “reverse head” (white on black) with the author’s name. You get the undiluted “voice” of Jamie (jazzy, hip, young) and Scott (to-the-point, wry, unabashedly honest). But that “voice” also shows through in the way they caption pictures, write headlines, and even the way they assign stories.

Freelancers get a similar opportunity to write in their own voice. Bart Jackson, Pat Tanner, Simon Saltzman, Elaine Strauss, Richard Skelly – regular readers don’t need the byline to know who’s writing.

This is, after all, a publication that puts a higher priority on words than on design. And the writing doesn’t have to conform to the daily newspaper style. If I think that Second Person Plural will draw the reader into a subject, I use it, just like I’m using it now. I’m talking directly…..to YOU. Is that part of the Barbara Fox voice? Maybe.

Advertisers are among the “intentional” spokespeople. They believe the product works so well for them that they put their money behind it.

U.S. 1 Newspaper’s chief intentional spokesperson is, of course, the founder, Richard K. Rein. Even though you never read a column of his, you can discern his voice, because he set the tone. No business too small or too big to write about. No cow too sacred to gore. No subject too “adult” to write about or photograph. (We’ve been banished from several school lobbies.)

I won’t try to explain Rein’s policies. He’s going to do that himself in the issue of November 11. He also invites the readers, and that means you, to the first of several anniversary celebration events, a rush hour reception on Tuesday, November 24, 5 to 8 p.m., at Tre Piani in Princeton Forrestal Village.

You the reader, after all, are among U.S. 1’s best “accidental spokespersons.” You’re the one who tells your job hunting friend to get the U.S. 1 Directory, or who uses the PrincetonInfo.com website to plan next weekend, or eagerly looks for news of companies that have just come to town. Bhargava says it’s one thing to identify the accidental spokespeople and quite another to figure out what to do with them. “As soon as you identify them, you need to be thinking about ways to embrace them.” Don’t ignore them, he warns. “Embracing them means giving them the content, attention, and access they need to tell a compelling story.”

If you recognize yourself as an accidental spokesperson for U.S. 1, write and say so! What did you like and not like for the past 25 years, and what would you like to see for the next 25? Toss me an e-mail or leave a comment here. You can stay anonymous!

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4 thoughts on “U.S. 1’s 25th Part II: Accidental Spokespeople

  1. My week wouldn't be complete without reading US1. It is the best source of local business news, love the "accidental spokesperson" approach and well-written interesting articles. Clap Clap !!! and may you rein on the top for the next 25 years..

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