After year after year of lawsuits, strikes and legal attacks on its business model, Uber could use some good press. Now it has a partner who knows all about getting that done on a massive scale. Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington is the newest member of Uber’s board of directors.
Huffington was brought on board for a very specific purpose: to bring more emotional intelligence to the brand and help it do a better job of connecting with customers and potential clients.
CEO Travis Kalanick said, in a statement posted on both Huffington Post and Uber.com: “That ability to tell stories is invaluable for an engineer like me, whose natural tendency is to rely on data. As I’ve discovered, that doesn’t always work perfectly. So it’s Arianna’s emotional intelligence that I am most excited to learn from…”
In a follow-up interview with CNN, Huffington told CNNMoney that she would “focus on telling the story of Uber’s role in transforming cities, as well as look at new opportunities to deliver varied services to users.”
The former is something the company has needed for a long time. While it boasts millions of satisfied customers, Uber has depended almost entirely on their word of mouth to share the story of Uber and why others should give it a shot. Word of mouth is powerful, no doubt, but it has its limits. People are connected, but not unilaterally, and if you want to spread a message fast, you need to connect with those outside the initial circle of customers and their friends.
Huffington came out of the blocks strong, touting Uber’s success at reducing drunk driving in major cities while promising the next step is to look at ways Uber can help reduce another road danger, drowsy driving.
In moving Uber from simply an added convenience to a social activist company interested in the public good, Huffington has already begun to shift the company away from its cost and service benefit upside to a much broader appeal opportunity.
Huffington also offered the obligatory separation clause with relation to her media empire. Accordingly, she will no longer be in charge of what gets published on HuffPo concerning Uber.