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Telling the Stories Your Customers Want to Hear

Oct/Fri | Category: theJustification | 

With heavy backgrounds in public relations and communications, we’ve spent a lot of time testing the effectiveness of different methods of storytelling.


When we first started out in our careers we were ushered to a fax machine and given an endless printout from the dot matrix printer with the name and fax number of every journalist in the immediate and not so immediate area.  Little attention was paid to the outlet or the reporter it would be delivered to.  Our carefully crafted press release would simply roll off the fax and into a pile of thousands of others.  It was a long shot – working on take rates not unlike that of direct mail.  If we were lucky 5% might reach out for more information or even write a story.


It didn’t work.  Then some of us started thinking – let’s just fax this to the outlets that the story would be a fit for.  Travel stories no longer went to tech magazines and local event announcements stopped going to those out of area.  Results improved.


Then email came along and allowed us to reach specific reporters with the stories that were appropriate for that particular section.  GENIUS!  We started targeting our releases to the right people.  Results improved again.


Finally, we dropped the never ending pitch lists all together and started customizing our pitches to each journalist.  We started thinking what they would need to tell a great story and about what their audience would want to read.  We even went as far as to think about how we could give them a story angle completely customized to them.  An automotive publication with a writer that loves racing – let’s lead with some not-so-well-known facts about our racing history.  They love toys?  Let’s tell them about the cool factor of the new sound system’s iPod integration.  And the results?  Yep, you guessed it – improved DRAMATICALLY!


It was at this point we, as PR and communications professionals, struck gold.  We were developing actual relationships. Not by having to buy a journalist lunch or give them free product, but by just listening, understanding what they want and what their interests are and then letting them know how our opportunity met their need or desire. We were useful to them and they became loyal.


Now, take this same model and apply it to the more traditional side of marketing – advertising.  Advertising starts off as the one to many conversation (or one to thousands in most cases) with an advertisement, direct mail piece, etc.  From there we move into targeted ads and then keyword purchasing.  We buy media in particular magazines and on particular networks and for a while it’s effective but then consumers stop listening.


Enter search and social media.  The platforms that began emerging offered opportunities for the customers to get quickly to exactly what they want, bypassing your advertisements in the process.  However, this same technology also allowed us to start listening to consumers – finding out what they were saying and what they were interested in and then allowing you a forum in which to respond.


Once you build the right tools to enable engagement and communication, you can interact directly with your customers.  But bear in mind, they will see through attempts at overt marketing so proceed using honest information and a true desire to be authentic* and transparent.*  Do this and you can build a relationship with your customer making yourself valuable to them.


This is your opportunity to tell your cutomer the story they’ve been wanting to hear.


*Note:  we’ll talk more about the ideas of authenticity and transparency in future posts, but remember the open forum is self-policing so if you lie, mislead, cover up or are otherwise dishonest, someone will call you out.  It’s almost guaranteed.


Category: theJustification

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