Nearly 30 years ago, while volunteering as a driver for the Kennedy Center Honors, I made an enormous mistake. I dropped off television director Don Mischer and his camera crew at the wrong gate to the White House, forcing them to run around the block, heavy equipment in tow, to get into the White House to film President and Mrs. Reagan, and still have time to get back to the Kennedy Center for the rest of the show. It was an honest mistake. New to Washington, I didn’t know 15th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue, and no one had told me exactly where I was supposed to let them off.

Thank you, Mr. Mischer!

Mischer could have been a jerk–he was greatly inconvenienced–but instead he couldn’t have been nicer. He saw I felt so badly and he tried to make me feel better. It’s something that has stuck with me and I was reminded of it again when watching the Oscars last week. It appeared that Mischer’s crew was having trouble with the microphones. At times, the sound sounded, well, off. I cut him a huge break because I remembered how kind he’d been to a young nobody.

Follow the Public Relations Leader

More companies and organizations ought to heed that lesson. Being nice to your customers, your employees and your partners builds up good will. It’s essential to great public relations, in the truest sense of the word.  And it’s so obvious but so many enterprises fail to heed it. It happens everywhere: the rude receptionist at the doctor’s office who is doing you a favor by making an appointment; or the telecom company that makes you jump through multiple prompts on their phone system to get you to a live person who, when you do speak to them, asks for the same information all over again.  BTW: none of their prompts addresses your issue.

These are the kinds of things that make or break a reputation. PR could stand for Perfect Reputation. All the effort on social media to engage customers or the carefully crafted PR campaigns won’t change your image if your product doesn’t work and your team is rude. It’s that simple.

Don Mischer–thanks for being a good guy and teaching me a valuable lesson. And I loved the Oscars.