Mayor of the people, master of communications: A lesson in PR from former Boston mayor, Thomas M. Menino

When former Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino left office in 2013, after serving 20 consecutive years as mayor, his approval rating was reportedly over 82 percent. A Boston Magazine article at the time announced the results of the poll with the headline, “Mayor Menino is More Popular Than Kittens,” citing that only 77 percent of Americans had favorable views on kittens. Even more striking than his popularity, a 2009 Globe poll indicated that over 57 percent of Bostonians had, in fact, met the mayor in person. When applied to the actual population of Boston, that’s over 368,000 people.

Last week, at the age of 71, he passed away visit this site right here. Story after story has been told throughout the Boston papers, and beyond, about the lives he impacted. The city mourns his death because he had an apparent authentic desire to help his constituents – no matter their political party or background or ethnicity. Articles depict the many instances where he showed character, heart and humbleness. Although known for a thick Boston accent and tendency to jumble his words, Menino was a true mayor of the people. He was also a master of communications.

Known fondly as “mumbles Menino,” the former mayor was also famous for malapropisms. Once, in a televised interview, he mistakenly referred to Celtics players Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo as “KJ” and “Hondo”—a slipup that spread through the internet like wildfire. His time in office was filled with many similarly funny anecdotes. Bostonians did not laugh at the mayor, but rather with him, because his authenticity shown through in his frequent public appearances and the actions he took to help his city, despite his sometimes blundered speech, spoke clear.

As healthcare communicators, we are constantly tasked with promoting brand messages across a complex digital landscape. We tweet, blog, post videos and monitor channels to interact with consumers, promote our brands and take note of what is being said. These are all important, crucial methods to help us understand how we are perceived and allow us to best reach our audience. We can learn something even more important from Menino’s tenure in office—how to reach individuals, whether that be a patient or doctor, in a meaningful, lasting capacity.

To Bostonians, the mayor was “one of them.” This impression is especially important for a brand to achieve in healthcare as the solutions offered to patients are ones that they must often trust with their lives. Menino showed he cared about his constituents through genuine interactions. Not only did he build programs that transformed Boston and touched communities, but he attended graduations, funerals and store-openings. Despite, after 20 years in office and a celebrity-like status, Menino remained grounded and local. I think, in healthcare public relations, such a feat is not only important, but ultimately, the main objective.

This fall, at PRWeek’s Good Business, Better Business conference, the sentiment of the top industry communicators was clear: corporate social responsibility is entirely necessary and central to building a lasting brand today. Consumers want to support brands that give back to their communities, care about something more than their profit and contribute to making the world a better place (as cliché as it sounds). CSR initiatives increase a brand’s likability and make consumers feel as if they can invite the brand into their communities, into their homes and, as was true in Menino’s case, even into their hearts.

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