The city of Pawnee, Indiana isn’t real. Neither are Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, or the rest of the characters from Parks and Recreation. Despite this, these fictional folks and their imaginary home town have ensconced themselves in the hearts of millions. Even for the realm of network TV, that’s no mean feat. So as the show begins its final season, we’re taking a moment to look back on the brilliance of the people that have made it so well loved.
By the way, this isn’t some sort of fan-driven ode to Amy Poehler or Chris Pratt. The warm community sentiment that Parks and Recreation evokes is actually a stroke of brilliance. The show has created a home for its viewers—a place for them to belong. We should all be so lucky. That’s why, instead of simply stuffing this article full of links to the TV show’s gag reel (ok, maybe just this once), we’re going to be delving into just what Parks and Recreation and its cast of characters have done to so thoroughly win over their fans.
1. Make yourself available. More than anything else, this is the strength of Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler). While her boss, Ron Swanson, fills his free time with woodworking and eating massive amounts of bacon, Knope is a mobile force for change at any hour of the day. While we’re not suggesting you go door-to-door to remove snails from walkways and collect feedback, it is a good idea to go mobile. From texts and IMs to tablet-based sales, there are many ways you can be in the right place at the right time, so when deadlines get moved or unexpected opportunities come knocking on your door, you won’t be caught off-guard.
2. Know what your customers like. A lot of the folks in Pawnee like live music. After noticing this, the indomitable Andy Dwyer (played by Chris Pratt) gave the town an amazing outdoor concert. The response was an overwhelming wave of support—a nigh-on unheard of thing for Pawnee. By gathering your own social insights, you too can create campaigns that speak to your customers’ hearts.
3. Empower your team. Leslie Knope spends every waking hour (and likely many a sleeping one) thinking of ways to improve her city. But all her good intentions wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans without the support of a strong, empowered team at her back. By handing her team the reigns (even if it is difficult for her), Knope is able to realize gains she never could alone. Even if you don’t yet know the strengths of each member of your team, give them the power to connect with customers through social media and their mobile devices, and you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish.
4. Go the extra mile. Despite his loner façade, within Ron Swanson (played by Nick Offerman) beats the heart of a great leader. The ultimate hands-off administrator, Ron is always there when the need arises. Ron turns every interaction into a personal conversation. In a world overpopulated by faceless companies, you can stand out by creating a safe space for discourse—for both your customers and the members of your team.
5. Take advantage of social sentiment. Beloved as they are by their TV audience, the characters of Parks and Recreation have a rocky relationship with some of the other citizens of Pawnee, Indiana. No matter how wonderful your company is, chances are you’ll run into one or two “naysayers” on social media. But while this sort of attention can initially feel like a negative, even the worst social sentiment can be harnessed as a tool. Like Leslie Knope, you just might find yourself better off for meeting the challenge head on.
If you’d like to learn more about making use of social sentiment, we’ve put together a short ebook on the subject here (PDF).