Customer-centric PR: letting others tell your story

Posted by on Dec 6, 2012 in Client Talk, General, Lessons, Management, PR Methodology | 0 comments

If you are not using third party, customer-centric PR, there is a high likelihood that your brand’s full potential is not being reached.

Whether you run a PR agency,  a nonprofit, a small-mid-size business, a 10-person marketing department, or a larger corporation, the size of your brand potential might just depend on the PR philosophy that you apply.

How many third parties do you foster to help shape your brand or – big ghast – to collectively become your largest public voice? We call this philosophy customer-centric, or third party PR.

Brand advocates can be at work on your behalf – whether you put them on the payroll or not. We believe in building relationships first that become part of  ‘earned’ media.’ If your story is valuable, it does not require a payment for a blogger (citizen journalist) to share it, for social media to viralize it, or for a news outlet to publish it. Earned media is quite different from paid media where money is exchanged to tell your story. If it’s good, you don’t need to pay to tell it.

When the number of third party partnerships for your brand is small, consider a plan for creating a customer-centric PR voice to take your organization to the next level.

For one healthcare services client pursuing PR, we ran up against many ‘no-vendor PR policies’ at notable hospitals across the U.S.  We wanted these hospital customers to speak about the services – despite policies against it. By including data on the services and measuring success, a footnote or citation would inevitably be used in a story. Despite not calling the service by name the news media and social media pick it up. After two years and partnering with hundreds of hospitals to share their stories, the company is more visible and valuable. Its stock price is 2x what it was trading before customer-centric PR efforts began.

If your products or services address a bigger industry problem, your customers will want to talk about it to enhance their image and to grow their community of followers as part of  content marketing or brand journalism. This step toward a partnership to becoming your brand advocate is a critical one for any customer-centric PR philosophy.

A six-month PR strategy was developed for a medical software start-up that teaches doctors how to learn a new device or procedure on a simulated patient and not a real patient.  Industry medical experts were sought to tell the story such as physicians teaching the procedures, hospital leaders wanting the most effective training outcomes, and patients who wanted to believe their hospital is implementing best practices to keep them healthy. We prepared and provided these third party sources to an editor with a pitch about the bigger picture and a leadership principle. With patient safety as the mantra, why would any hospital CEO let his or her doctors practice on real patients when they knew technology existed to provide safer outcomes by using a dummy?

Relentlessly let third parties speak about the brand or product by applying a customer-centric PR philosophy. This company got a two-page story in a global magazine read by 2 million. Other exposure allowed the organization to acquire more customers, partnerships and leads to expand beyond the U.S. Its revenues grew from $100k to $6M in two years.

Call it testimonial marketing that uses influencer opinions. Either way, you are developing a PR approach that is driven by finding your customers voices that can more credibly tell the story than you can. Why better? Having a third party speak about your services is more believable and influential than you telling it yourself. Let your audiences hear it from others.

Traditional PR, social media, content marketing and customer service are blending into an integrated approach for telling stories. The third party, outside voice is sought after by journalists, bloggers and others who seek balanced stories.

Whether pitching the story by phone, a Tweet DM or a press release, think a few steps ahead for reporters. Prepare and provide third party sources to help shape the story and speed up the research and writing process. Ultimately it is the reporter’s call to validate what you provide.

Letting third parties and your customers tell your stories quite quickly shoots your credibility and your revenue stream up.


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