While this setup doesn’t seem complicated, it oftentimes is. Many customers are hesitant to establish brand affiliations or product endorsements within the media, and therefore – PR folk need to get creative.
While ideally all of our clients would have customers willing to share data and speak with media openly and freely (following media training, of course), many prefer a route that allows them a) zero opportunity for questions they’re unprepared for, and b) full oversight and approval rights to any text written (by a member of the media or otherwise).
As such, and with that in mind, there are various other ways to tout your client’s success through customer engagement:
- Case studies – This can be focused on the relationship to date or around a specific launch/rollout, and allows the customer to participate in the process – drafting and reviewing content, incorporating data where possible and providing their stamp of approval on the final piece. From the agency’s perspective, it provides pitch fodder and additional credibility when speaking with media.
- Award submissions – Often based on case studies, award submissions can stem from either your client or their customer, and are a win/win for both parties. If they should win, both can publicize it via press release and/or on their website, blog and social channels, with full messaging control therein.
- Event partnerships – Client events are particularly successful when a customer participates, potentially as a guest speaker or panelist. This is usually less self-serving, or oftentimes based on a broader industry topic, but shows overarching credibility and can provide content for material later on. Note – if there are media attending and customers don’t wish to speak to them, it’s certainly acceptable to decline the invite.
- Press releases/quotes – If a customer isn’t interested in proactive media opportunities where they’re in a spoken conversation with media, providing a quote and/or sign-off on a standalone press release is an option; while PR folks would love to be able to pitch in tandem with wire distribution, it still underlines the partnership and correlated success and can be promoted as is. (Note – if a customer is comfortable with email/written Q&As, this is an even better option that guarantees the option for additional commentary and color for media.)
The aforementioned are great ways to get clients and their customers – particularly those that aren’t well-versed in media – comfortable with the idea of getting their names, stories and successes out there. If executed and promoted correctly, it often whets their appetite for bigger, broader brand exposure.
How to Capitalize on a Client/Customer Opportunity
The holy grail of media opportunities: a top-tier publication is interested in featuring your client’s work, and needs commentary from one of their customers in order to publish.
As a PR representative, your focus naturally hones in on portraying your client’s best self; but you understand that, from a reporter’s perspective, the customer’s experience is what’s considered “media-worthy.”
In order to properly prepare both parties, it’s highly suggested to coordinate separate media trainings ahead of time. These media trainings will not only include background on the reporter, his/her writing style, the publication and the topic at hand but also how to tell a holistic story that seamlessly relates back to your client’s narrative.
Suggested proof points should always relate back to the technology and how it helps the brand function more effectively and efficiently, and at a higher level than others in the industry – something both your client and their customer will be happy to see written in an article.
While all of this sounds great in theory, what does it actually look like in practice? In a previous life, I secured a top-tier media opportunity for a data analytics company that had a roster of global retail clients. Over the course of 10 months, I developed an exclusive story with a Wall Street Journal reporter – I connected her with client contacts, and multiple retail executives, all of whom were prepped with messaging, talking points and extensive background on how we wanted the story to come to fruition. In the end, the focal point of the article was my client’s technology, though it still homed in quite a bit on the successes, activations and processes of the retail customers. The article was featured in print and online, and proved that a) two (plus!) companies working together are always better than one, b) carefully refined messaging and media prep works, and c) sometimes the best stories take (a lot of) time.