Friday, 26 March 2010

The power of people (and PR)

After his two-and-a-half month long walk from Cape Town to Beit Bridge, friend Ray Chaplin is staying with me. And he's preparing to cycle from Jo'burg to Cape Town, on Sunday. The planning of any expedition is a major undertaking - permissions, people, equipment, sponsors... there are many puzzle pieces that must come together to make things happen.

Considering that he is cycling to Cape Town, a bicycle is a necessity. Almost three weeks ago Ray started dealing with a bike supplier, arranging to buy one of their basic single-speed classic designs. By Wednesday - yes, barely two days ago - they hadn't even started putting it together. Time for a change in plan.

I remembered that a few years ago my old friend from my varsity underwater hockey days, JC van Blerk, had gotten involved with the commuter bicycle brand, Johnny Loco. These super-sexy cruising bicycles are single speed and just so cool. It's the type of bicycle you'd ride to cruise the streets of Venice, the olive groves of the south of France, country roads in Spain and wine farms in the Cape.

So, I give JC a buzz and tell him that we're looking for a bike for Ray to ride. Without hesitation or questions he jumps in. So easy. JC's in Stellenbosch, so we ask whether there's perhaps a bike lying around in Gauteng - time is tight. He says that he has a buddy with one. He phones Philip, gets confirmation and by noon on Thursday - 24hrs later - we have a way-cool Johnny Loco in my car.

This classic Dutch-style bike (sans basket on the front) is a beauty. Her styling is elegant and she represents a life that is slow, relaxed and friendly. I could picture myself riding a bike like this and waving to neighbours and the local butcher and baker as I cruise by. It's a single-speed bike and nary a cable is seen as the braking system is a back-pedal coaster brake. There's not a quick-release anything and the cushy seat has springs - yes, spring - underneath. What a beauty!

This blog post is not just about this delicious bicycle (I'm going to give it a ride later today!), it is also a thank you to the people who pull finger to make things happen. Their actions speak about how they care about what they do as well as their belief in their products and people, like Ray.

When people are under pressure at work and overloaded, it is easy to understand how they can miss things. But what they forget is how important things big and small are to the person they're dealing with. This week I've seen a lot of issues with suppliers who disappear, don't return calls, delay in sending products arranged weeks in advance... frankly, it is unacceptable and it just says, "I don't care". Bad, bad PR dudes.

And then there are people like JC who, not even knowing Ray, have jumped in feet first. Others have stood by agreements and arrangements to enthusiastically make this trip happen.

I've been on a whole athlete sponsorship and public relations thing for my 'day-job' work for the past couple of months. Needless to say, I've been hitting my head against a wall (more on this in another post). And, sadly, I'm not too surprised. Local companies, wake up! Our local adventurers and athletes can do so much for your brand if you support and use them wisely.

In good faith, my buddy JC has lent Ray a bicycle; and now Johnny Loco is a name you know.

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