“Can I Speak to a Customer?” How to Prepare for the Inevitable Request

By Amy Dardinger
Amy is a creative, driven PR professional who thrives on data-driven strategy & enjoys being a step ahead of her client’s competitors. She specializes in helping high-growth companies build integrated public relations strategies to meet their goals.
 

Reporters are a highly skeptical group. And why shouldn’t they be? They receive pitches filled with “gloatwords” every day. Reporters want to figure out which trends and companies will catch-on and which ones are smoke and mirrors.

One of the best ways to show that your startup is the real deal is to have a customer ready to speak on your behalf. It can seem overwhelming at first to set up this type of reporter interaction, but we’ve seen great articles come from it. Believe me, it’s worth it!

1. Ask Your Customer

We understand that this can be a tough request. You’re asking someone you have a business relationship with to go on the record and speak about the benefits of your service. Knowing your customer base and discussing this with your customer success team can help to identify clients that could be primed to sing your praises.

Further complicating the request is that the person who uses your service may not be familiar with public relations, nor have the ability to approve the reporter interaction on behalf of the company. Your PR team can help by laying out exactly what is required so that you can make the ask. We’ve also looped in communication teams from the customer’s company to work through any red tape. Presenting the expectation and opportunity with clarity can help move the interview forward.

2. Prepare Your Customer

Once you’ve secured the permission of your customer to set up the interview, it’s time to prepare. Just like any interview, it’s important to brief them on the subject matter and the style of the reporter doing the interview. Your PR team can help substantially with this part of the process. At SSPR, we also develop messaging documents that customers often find helpful as a reference.

You might think it’s obvious, but it is also helpful to remind your customer that you’d like them to mention your company. I once set up an interview for a health care company with a well-known hospital executive. The reporter gave the executive plenty of opportunities to mention his service provider for the technology, and he took none of them. The client went to tons of trouble to set up the interview, and didn’t even get a mention. Don’t let it happen to you. When you send over any briefing information, it’s helpful to also send that little reminder, very politely!

3. Thank Your Customer

This is a fairly big favor to ask of a customer, so make sure to thank them for their help. It’s also proper etiquette to send them the article when it publishes. Their company will also receive publicity from the opportunity and they can help to amplify the article on their social media channels.

On a personal level, after a customer interview, it’s a good idea to send them a handwritten note of appreciation (perhaps even with a small token like chocolate or a nice bottle of wine). You want to make sure they know how much you appreciate their extra efforts to help grow your business.

Successfully setting up a customer interview is a big win for any PR team. It’s an extremely effective way to get coverage in tier one publications and industry verticals that have vendor-neutral editorial policies. Questions about how to make it happen? Ask your PR team about how your company can start using customers as a way to get glowing coverage.

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