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Proof is in the Pudding: When the press speaks to your customers

May 25th, 2007

trendSpotting Report
Jared Kreiner

It’s no secret: when a journalist is writing about a service or product, they often seek firsthand accounts from customers because stories that feature a testimonial from a client are more engaging and add credibility to a feature.

Unfortunately, many firms don’t take the following three simple steps to identify press-worthy spokespeople who are happy customers, and when a reporter asks for a client testimonial a terrific story can slide down the tubes. No matter what business you’re in, if you want media attention, someone in the media will someday want to speak to your customers. Here’s what you need do to help your company when you get a demand:

1. Gather Copious Information about Your Customers

Mail-in rebates, online surveys, registration questionnaires…they exist for one purpose—to gather information about customers. It is imperative you have some knowledge of your customers’ geographical locations, household income, interests, hobbies, or quirks. If you have e-mail addresses for customers, ask them a simple question: “Are you willing to speak to the press about your experience? ‘Cause they’d love to hear from you!” From there, you can begin building a database of cool spokespeople.

2. Select Candidates

It’s no surprise that when seeking a customer testimonial journalists are going to be selective. For instance, if the San Francisco Chronicle wants to speak to someone who uses your product, bet they want a customer in the Bay Area. If you have sufficient info on clients, filling this request can be a piece of cake. Likewise, when you have information on your customers you don’t have to panic and can instantly be proactive and pitch them as a part of the story. Think about it: How much better are your odds when pitching a reporter at the Chicago Tribune if you mention that you happen to have several seriously thrilled clients in Chicagoloand who are willing to share their experiences!?

3. Prepare Your Clients for the Media

In our last trendSpotting newsletter, we talked about how nerve-wracking it can be for your CEO to represent your company. Unfortunately, having a client tell a story can be even worse. Unlike your CEO, a client doesn’t have a vested interest in your firm’s well being. Also unlike your CEO, we can’t “script” clients for interviews. However…there’s nothing wrong or untoward about ensuring your client understands the ins, outs, and potential pitfalls of speaking with media. Make sure your person knows that nothing is off the record and key words and phrases like “recently divorced,” “unemployed” or “unhappy at work” will surely spark a journalist’s attention. And certainly explain what YOU hope to get from this story so they can sing along with your message!

So, what did we learn today? Don’t take client testimonials for granted, and don’t let potential stories lapse or walk on by because you can’t deliver for a journalist. With proper groundwork, and a little common sense, you can handle these requests with no difficulty whatsoever. We promise.

Jared Kreiner is an RLM Account Executive who ensures that all the elements of successful media coverage are readily available.