As we’ve previously discussed in the Milldam Minute, a customer that is willing to provide a testimonial is an excellent resource for generating press coverage. Two weeks ago, I discussed the importance of developing case studies for the benefit of press coverage. Today’s blog focuses on the customer engagement process and how to tie trends to recent company news.
Over the last fifteen years, Milldam has helped numerous clients in the delicate process of convincing their customers that talking with the press is beneficial to both parties. It’s one of the most difficult tasks that marketing departments/PR professionals have and we’ve developed a few basic tips to help ensure success.
- Determine the Type of Publication
The first step to help generate customer buy-in for media efforts is to determine the type of publication that you want to be featured in. If you’re looking to increase name recognition within your industry and attract potential leads, your best bet is to go after a relevant trade publication. These outlets generally give you more leeway to express technical language, concepts and industry-specific nomenclature. If you’re looking to reach C-level executives and have a long-term strategy to get your company acquired, you will want to focus on mainstream business publications such as The Wall Street Journal or your city’s business journal.
- Find a Trend
Once you’ve determined the type of publication to engage with, the next step is to identify a trend in your industry that can be tied to the work you performed for your customer. Often, the type of publication you’re targeting will set the guidelines for a trend. For example, if you’re shooting for a business publication, it’s more than likely that the trend you’re discussing will have a major impact on different markets or the wiser relevant industry.
- Setting the Stage with Your Customer
Once you’ve chosen a publication type and trend to focus on, the next step is to secure buy-in. It’s not enough to just have a great story; you need to be able to explain how both your client and their customer may benefit from this campaign. Working with your PR representative, you need to think about how this story will not only highlight your offerings, but how it will cast the customer’s company in a positive light.
The first step is to discuss the possibility of media activity with your client Point of Contact (POC) to get their buy-in. You don’t want to run into a situation where you go above your POC, alienating them and making for a difficult process and future relationship (or worse, killing the initiative altogether). Once you get buy-in from the POC, you can begin crafting the important talking points and ultimately bring them to the customer’s marketing department for their approval. When dealing with some larger companies, there may be an additional hurdle of getting approval from a legal department or corporate counsel to ensure that there isn’t any damaging language in the talking points. This process may take a long time (weeks or even months), depending on the company’s size and resources, so extra time should be built-in for this possibility.
When working to secure buy-in from the customer, it’s also important to position the news so that it will be interesting enough to generate press coverage while also communicating the details of the project. For example, if you helped a customer with an energy efficiency upgrade to their manufacturing facility, you may put some language in the piece about how the company has significantly decreased their carbon footprint, equivalent to reducing the energy needed to power 100 U.S. homes for a year. If you helped with a significant IT project that reduced operational costs, you may highlight how your customer is now able to pass those savings onto their customer base.
While this approach to PR can be challenging on many levels (especially when it comes to the approval process) the end results have the potential to create some serious buzz for everyone involved and lead to some great press coverage.
Adam Waitkunas authors the column “Anecdotally Adam” and is President of Milldam Public Relations.