I was reading through my LinkedIn feed the other day and a post caught my eye, from a public relations professional who was ranting at the state of their industry. Their critique of PR was on point: the old way of spray and pray announcements, completely off-target pitches, and trying to force their way in the doors and stories of journalists was broken. That’s 100% correct.
But the solution they proposed was for public relations to pivot into pitching bigger ideas, bigger stories, being inciters and provocateurs, doubling down on thought leadership… that fell a little flat for me. Why? Because sometimes, there just isn’t a story about the company, at least one that is newsworthy. Not every company has – or needs – to be challenging the status quo with a hard-hitting criticism of the way things are or trolling the existing market in order to establish thought leadership.
I get why that’s the position this author took. PR companies, agencies, and professionals literally make their living finding ways to put their companies in the spotlight. It’s their job, all day, every day. But they’ve largely missed a transition in the way we do marketing.
The best marketers, the best marketing has pivoted in recent years to customer-centric marketing. You’ve heard the tropes a million times by now: tell the customer’s story. Make the customer the hero of the story. Focus on benefitting the customer in your marketing. To be fair, relatively few companies do this well, if at all. An uncomfortably large majority of marketing is still companies shouting “Look at me!” at the top of their lungs like an angry toddler in a soiled diaper. But those companies who succeed at customer-centric marketing do something truly unique: their marketing benefits their customers. Jay Baer called this Youtility in his 2013 book of the same name – marketing so good, people would buy it.
Here’s an example of a press release that a PR professional I don’t know sent to me, under an embargo I didn’t agree to, about a company I don’t care about. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Someplace, Texas [July, 13, 2021] – Random Company, a technology infrastructure platform for end-to-end podcast management, advertising and data analytics, today announced a new collaboration with Google Cloud and Google Data Studio. This collaboration between Random Company and Google Cloud will allow users to reach new levels of data visibility and consolidation across multiple data sources, combining the benefits of Google with the power of Random Company.
Random Company’ Podcast Analytics and Ads Connector for Google Data Studio allows publishers, advertisers and agencies to build custom reports and dashboards for their podcast analytics and advertising data. This includes the ability to combine their podcast data with additional sources such as data from Google systems and properties, Facebook, LinkedIn and more.
The Random Company Google Data Studio connector allows companies to save time and resources on building API-driven integrations with the Random Company API. Random Company provided default reports are fully customizable, enabling users to drag-and-drop additional data, reorganize, change themes and color schemes and more, essentially allowing for the addition of any data – without the need of a developer.
“Integrating Random Company’ podcast and audio analytics technology with Google Data Studio – easily the best free online reporting tool – was a necessary next move for Random Company,” said Texas Dude, CEO of Random Company. “Allowing our users to combine their data for seamless analysis with one of the most widely used reporting tools, allows for better decision making, in a visual and time-saving way.”
You and I are the customers, or prospective customers, of this company. So, ask yourself: how does this help you? How does this help me? How does this provide value to us?
Would you have paid money to read this press release?
If anything, you should have been paid to read it.
So how would we change this to be customer-centric PR? Instead of spending big bucks on a news release and having a PR firm spam this out to anyone in a media database that has the word podcast anywhere in their profile, what this company and this PR firm should have done is teach people how to build podcast reporting techniques in Google Data Studio for any podcasting service. They would of course use their own service as the demo, as the example, something like “If you’re a Random Company customer, just connect with our free Data Studio Connector” and then go about showing the techniques in Data Studio for building a great podcast reporting dashboard, how to add trend lines, how to make decisions about your show based on the data.
That’s useful. That’s helpful. That’s customer-centric public relations. Anyone using a different company besides Random Company for their podcast would probably stumble a little in the step for importing their data into Data Studio, and that’s where Random Company would make a soft pitch that would eventually lead to business. “Hey, if it’s really hard getting your data into Data Studio, we can help you migrate to our service if you want.”
Would you pay for a guide on how to build that Data Studio dashboard, with or without Random Company? If you’re a podcaster, possibly. It’s certainly more worthy of a pitch than an announcement about the publishing of yet another Data Studio Community Connector.
That’s customer-centric PR. Paraphrasing Jay, it’s PR so good that someone might buy it from you. It might not be front-page news in the New York Times, but it doesn’t have to be, and it’ll continue to perform well long after the news cycle moves on because it’s something customers want and need. And it’s a lot more sustainable in the long-term than trying to figure out what the next controversial idea is or hijacking some part of the news of the day. The number of ways you can help someone greatly outnumber the ways you can shock or surprise them in our omni-media world.
Use that question to bench test any PR effort you’re creating or an agency is creating on your behalf. Would you pay money to receive this news? Is this pitch so valuable that you’d buy it from your company, even if you didn’t buy your company’s accompanying product or service? If the answer is no, go back and sharpen your pencils until you create a pitch that’s so helpful, someone would want to buy it from you.
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