Olly Honess
Olly Honess 5 August 2013
Categories Social Media

What can air hostesses teach us about social?

I was sitting on a flight back from Turkey and I became aware of some movement on my right.

I was sitting on a flight back from Turkey and I became aware of some movement on my right.
It was the air hostess who were going through the motions of the usual pre-take off routine.
"Please be aware that itisstandardproceduretoturnoffthecabin lights during takeoff. Please ensure that yourseatbeltisfastened and that yourtableisstowedawaysaftely..."


These were no doubt important messages. But they were being completely ignored not only by myself but also by the rest of the passengers who (a glance around the cabin confirmed) sat flicking through the papers, staring out of the window, thumbing magazines or continuing their own private conversations.

She continued with a sales message this time. Less important but equally as lost. "The duty free trolley willbecomingaround shortly and stocks a rangeofspiritswinesandperfumes"

What’s the problem here? She wasn’t in a hurry. The microphone was working perfectly.

I think the problem is that she said exactly what people expected her to say in exactly the way people expected to hear it, and so she was ignored by all but the most nervous of flyers.

What’s developed over decades of commercial air travel as an air hostess TOV is now firmly entrenched. We can all jokingly mimic it which indicates a level of continuity even between airline brands.*


I think this is a reminder of something we in social all know. We’re all aware ’content is king’ but the other lesson here is to make sure people pay attention to what you are saying in the way you say it.  That means establishing and sticking to a strong and recognizable brand TOV. Would I have paid more attention the air hostess if she had delivered the message in her own personal tone as opposed to the expected one? Yes. Would I have been more likely to clear out my remaining Euros on some duty free tat I don’t need if her announcement was delivered with a bit of charm and wit? Definitely.

With half of brands reportedly achieving social engagement values of only 0.2%, there’s clearly more tonal work to be done. Agree a strong brand personality before you communicate through social and spend extra time enforcing safeguards ensuring all your communications adhere to it.  It’s too easy to stick to the way others have done and to default to how other brands speak on social (I’m looking at you, cat meme) . All that does is blur the lines between yours and hundreds of other messages you audience receives that day.

And then you’ve spent your efforts and your client money creating something that will be completely ignored. And that’s the worst thing that can happen.

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