Communications lessons from the back seat of an Uber

January 12, 2016

One of the things I love about working at Metis is that everyone on the team is a knowledge-seeker. We are constantly absorbing everything we can about our clients’ industries and the public relations sector. I am a firm believer that you can learn anywhere: reading a book, viewing a documentary, or even having a chat with your friendly neighborhood Uber driver.

I’ve received a great deal of advice from Uber drivers over the past few years, and I find myself applying some of those lessons directly to my work here at Metis. For example:

“The answer isn’t always online. Sometimes you have to go with your gut."

You have to give Uber drivers a lot of credit. We expect our drivers (and their smartphones) to know the best possible route to our destination and to deliver us there faster than Aladdin’s magic carpet. During one trip, an Uber driver suggested “going with my gut” after we agreed that Google Maps was leading us far away from my intended destination.

That instinct-driven thought process applies to any strategic public relations strategy, especially for a startup company. Take the time to brainstorm with your team offline and share ideas with new people to seek external perspectives. Startups can certainly learn from reading up on other companies’ histories, but it is also smart to trust your team’s intuition and try new tactics.

“You aren’t locked into one path for the rest of your life. Sometimes it’s good to change things up.”

The suggestion to “change things up” came from a 65-year-old Uber driver who had recently retired from a lifelong career as a professor. Once retired, he soon realized he missed the constant human interaction that came with a campus environment, and decided to tackle a new job with Uber.

Companies and CEOs sometimes feel stuck in one particular plan or direction, especially if it has brought success in the past. However, being disruptive with your brand can lead to achieving greater feats and maintaining continued relationships with customers. Is there a new vertical you can target? Other industries you can break into? A social campaign you can develop to support a new product launch? Challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zone and chart new territories.

“You may not understand everything a person says to you, but have patience and listen closely and eventually it will make sense.”

During my first Uber ride in Boston, I asked my driver what he loved most about the city. He told me that he appreciated the diverse, insightful passengers he met every day.

Since English was not his first language, he occasionally faced language barriers, but patience and listening helped him bridge any communication gaps.

As PR professionals, a major part of our mission is to help clients craft the best possible stories to illustrate the value their companies have to offer. Occasionally, that involves taking very technical issues and presenting them in a way that is digestible and appealing to the everyday consumer. With some dedication and strong communication skills, any company can differentiate its message and succeed in a competitive market.

What lessons have you learned on the road lately? Share them on Twitter with @MetisComm.

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