PR and the Art of Storytelling

Posted on Jul 22, 2011 in CHI Contemplation
Tags: integrated marketing communications, public relations

One of the amazing aspects of public relations is the very real discovery process that happens when customers of our clients are interviewed as sources for possible news stories. Recently our company was approached to provide feature content for a magazine covering the stormwater management industry. Our clients provided us a number of contacts, every one of whom turned out to be a great lead for the magazine feature. Better yet, we identified additional opportunities for stories to pitch to other publications as well.

One of those customers shared a great anecdote about removing tons of drinking straws from a stormwater management system near a major league football stadium. Another customer related the challenges of excavating sandy soil around retention ponds filled with alligators. The stories these clients shared added color to the utility of the products they used. And they fit perfectly with the editorial philosophy of the trade magazines in which those stories appeared.

Leveraging customer success into public relations exposure is sometimes the simplest way to highlight your product or service. You have to be willing to let the client be the focus of the story in some cases. But the exposure for your product is that much stronger if it is highlighted in the context of a solution. Your potential customers can better imagine the value of your product when it is shown rather than described. All the great storytellers in history know this secret. You might not always be able to draw a direct ROI from having a customer featured rather than your own company. But the cumulative benefit is often worth the effort of providing those story leads.

Sure, you can and should invest in sales materials that can be used directly in the sales process. But an integrated push that includes a solid PR component handled by professionals who know how to get materials placed can build visibility and credibility in both existing and burgeoning markets. Consider the manner in which so many people make buying decisions in the era of content and social media. Customers are looking for referrals and proof that your product is better than others. There is no better sales testimony than when your product is shown to work and a third party is vouching for its effectiveness.

Of course you must always be prepared when a public relations feature generates a lead. From the person receiving the call to the director of sales, your staff needs to know about the story. Posting a link to the online version on your website can generate calls, as can sending out a link to the story through your CRM tool and social media. All these techniques magnify the already powerful effects of public relations.

But it all starts with being excited enough about your customers’ business to share the limelight with them. Let them tell your story and the benefits are unlimited.


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