I write this blog for a lot of reasons — to open a line of communication with you, to have a forum for my thoughts, to impose the discipline to think and write, to generate speaking gigs and new business for my advertising agency, and to build my brand. But thanks to the power of the online keiretsu, TurkelTalks also generates lots of unexpected opportunities — business and otherwise.
For example, a few weeks ago I got a cryptic email from my friend Raul Mas. It said I should call him to discuss a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” When I finally got Raul on the phone, he said I was invited to do a tandem parachute jump with the Army’s crack Golden Knights parachute team if I would consider writing about it on my blog.
As excited as I was about the invitation, I wasn’t sure where I’d find the appropriate branding angle to cover it here until Raul explained that this program was created to introduce community and industry leaders to the Knights’ activities — an experiential public relations program that’s been operating since 1982.
At the jump site, public relations maven Harvey Spigler explained to me that because tandem parachuting is used in tactical situations — jumping native translators into remote regions in Afghanistan, for example — the public affairs division is multitasking by using a budgeted operation to generate buzz and provide a list of inexperienced volunteer jumping fodder.
The program, done as well as any PR event I’ve been involved with, is operated with — dare I say it — military precision. We were vetted, escorted onto Homestead Air Force Base and disclaimered lickety–split. We received some training, got suited up, and then sat around and waited for the clouds to clear. Apparently, weather is one of the few things the Army can’t control. But before too long the Florida sky returned to its beautiful shade of blue and we were escorted onto the prop plane that would take us up to 13,500 feet.
The jump itself was fantastic. I could write an entire blog about how much I loved it. If you’re interested you can watch the video of my jump HERE. Let me just say that even though we were told about our “terminal velocity” of 120 MPH, and “terminal” is a really bad word to use when talking to neophyte skydivers, the free fall was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. And once Noah opened the highly maneuverable wing chute, the glide to earth was absolutely beautiful.
Besides the jump itself and the personal connections that come with the event, it’s probably the personal video the Knights give every jumper that generates the most marketing opportunities. As we’ve discussed many times right here, YouTube is the second most popular search engine online — and video is the future of the Internet. So each jumper who takes his or her CD home and loads it onto Facebook exposes the program — and the Golden Knights — to their entire database of friends, family, and followers.
And what do you think those videos and comments say? My guess is there are a lot of “Awesomes” and “Amazings” and “The most fun I’ve had in my life!!” Not to make too fine a point of it, but these comments are not usually associated with any branch of the military.
As Raul put it, “What does it say about our Army and our military in general that every year hundreds of people entrust their very lives to a complete group of strangers?
What it tells me is that the U.S. military is one of the few institutions left in society, and in government, that people trust implicitly.
The difference is that the military’s brand has not just been earned with marketing dollars or clever advertising campaigns (“Army Strong;” “The Few, The Proud, The Marines;” are two recent examples) but rather through the execution of their missions, often paid for with American blood.
While we may not always agree on how to best use our armed forces, there is little doubt that most Americans have enormous faith in our men and women in uniform.”
Even when they’re throwing you out of a perfectly good airplane.