A quick-thinking Comcast agent saved a customer’s life – and triggered a case study in how to get media coverage for customer experience success stories.
The Mississippi-based Comcast representative grew alarmed when a Michigan man began slurring his words during a service call and then appeared to drop the phone.
Recognizing the signs of a stroke, she alerted local authorities, who rescued the man – who was in fact having a stroke.
Then someone alerted the media. A local Michigan television station broke the story, which went viral and landed in USA Today and People magazine.
It was perfect publicity for Comcast – the kind of positive, feel-good customer experience tale that helps companies grow their reputations for treating customers well.
Social Media In The News
Of course, the best way to get consumers praising a brand is by providing a remarkable customer experience. But it certainly helps get the word out if you can capture the media megaphone to spread these tales of corporate virtue for you.
So how do you do that? How do brands break through the dense, heavily digital and increasingly fragmented clutter that is today’s media? In many cases, they don’t have to – someone posts a positive customer experience on social media, and it takes off from there.
That’s what happened when a woman arrived in Costa Rica for her sister’s wedding and realized she had forgotten her bridesmaid dress. Desperate to retrieve it, she tweeted at Southwest Airlines.
And voilà, the airline flew the dress in free of charge, documented its journey on Twitter – complete with its own hashtag of #RescueTheDress – and wound up with tons of media coverage, including on the Today show.
Southwest deserves plenty of credit for recognizing a great customer experience opportunity and seizing it, allowing the media coverage to, ahem, take off.
Expert Tips For Engaging With The Media
Experts say it’s not enough for brands to rely on good coverage to come to them, especially given the media’s tendency to emphasize the negative.
“Believe it or not, not all media is in search of doom and gloom,” says Lynn Smith, a national media expert and former NBC and CNN anchor. “In fact, many realize that the consumer is desiring (positive) content. Ever read the story about the waitress who got a 1000% tip because a customer had a certain experience with him or her? That’s clickable content that people want.”
Companies need to be strategic and assertive, to proactively reach out to reporters and tell their own stories of customer experience success.
Christina Daves, a veteran PR strategist and bestselling author, said that “pitching the media is not difficult but you need a strategy and consistency… being proactive and tying it to something they are already talking about is the easiest way” to generate positive coverage.
Smith and Daves, along with other experts, provided the following tips for how to interest the media in what your brand does right in the customer experience arena:
- Tie your tale to something already in the news. Journalists call this a “newspeg.” Daves and other PR pros call it “newsjacking.” Whatever the nomenclature, a customer experience story linked to a hot news event, or perhaps a holiday or a celebrity, is more likely to land.
- Reach for the stars. As Smith says, “the media prefers BIG.” Reporters need clicks and eyeballs, so they gravitate to stories that affect large numbers of people. That’s partly why the Comcast and Southwest stories resonated: most people fly and/or have Internet service or cable. And both were classic feel-good tales.
- Know the journalists who cover your industry: take the time to research them and comment on their work. Few things irritate reporters more than a PR person who hasn’t done his/her homework, but they tend to respect PR professionals who do.
- Personalize your pitch, keep it SHORT, and follow-up in a way that is consistent but not annoying. Today’s journalists are often swamped with pitches. Make yours stand out.
- Avoid press releases. Few reporters read them, and a release citing your company’s ranking in a customer experience survey likely isn’t news. A specific example designed to resonate with readers could be.
- Be persistent but professional. Reporters may not be interested in your first pitch, and if you act annoyed or argue, you’ve lost them for the next time.
Be Strategic To Generate Media Coverage For Customer Experience
Sometimes, companies won’t need to take all of these steps because positive coverage will present itself.
When a North Carolina Target employee took the time to help a teenager tie a tie he had bought and prepare for a job interview, for example, another shopper snapped a photo for Facebook – and the story wound up in USA Today.
Yet even then, Target’s PR department was more likely to place the story if it had already done the legwork and knew the reporters to contact.
All of which reinforces the bottom line for brands: media coverage is an ideal way to get your customer experience success stories before the public. But it really helps to develop a smart strategy, hire PR professionals to execute it – and seek out that positive coverage whenever your customer experience team has a great story to tell.