How to Achieve Great PR by Synching Social Media and Customer Service

I recently read an interesting post on PR-Squared.com titled: Of Stars & Schmoes: The Mandate to Synch Social Media & Customer Service  which speaks to customer service as the new PR. With the advent of Web 2.0, it’s no secret that conversations are moving to a more open platform. With that said, it’s hard to ignore what people are saying about your company. If you go to search.twitter.com and punch in your company’s name, you’ll find that people are actually talking about your company, products, services, etc. What’s more troubling is that it’s open for everyone’s viewing.

As a social media buff at Lumension, we’re constantly monitoring what people are saying about us on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. But before all this chatter, I didn’t even flinch at the thought of doing that. But once I discovered that conversations were taking place online about our company and our products, I began to think how critical it is for us to regularly monitor the conversation online and create a two -way dialogue to let the end users know we were LISTENING and ENGAGING.  

I don’t care what anyone says – PR is tied so closely to every facet of your company and the Brand. That means Customer Service First. Great PR means nothing if you can’t back it up. You can hype all you want and say how great your company is and how great the product is but, in actuality, it’s the customer who tells the REAL story. And if they’re online talking negatively about your company, you need to do damage control. So why go there? Why even put your company in that position. It’s about being PROACTIVE and not REACTIVE. That’s the essence of great PR. Any time you put anything out there about your company, back it up first so that you can support it before you go out there blasting about your company. In-house PR/corp comm /marketing, go check with your product management team, tech support, marketing, business development, engineering, etc. – whatever the department – if the release or announcement is tied to something, check your facts and make sure you’re reporting the facts across your media outreach and announcements.

For example, we were working on our Data Security announcement on the latest enhancements to our product. We wanted to include all the ‘buzz’ terms like FIPS 140, encryption, etc. I had a reality check with our team and asked, “Can we support this?” “What are the facts that can be our proof points around our statement that says ‘Lumension is the industry leader in data protection’.  By doing this, you can 1) support your message 2) back it up should any issues come up 3) get a customer that can support your points 4) engage with the customer with the facts.

To stay on point and in closing, PR is more than just media outreach. It’s about integrating across all your business units and really engaging in the ‘conversation’. A few takeaways:

  • Checkpoint – Establish a resource within your communications, PR or marketing department who can monitor the conversation across your key channels – social media, blogs, etc.
  • Delegate – Have your resource find that share of voice across these channels and communicate with the appropriate internal resource to respond to any conversation that is taking place around your company, products and services. For example, on Twitter, if you find that some Twitterer says your product sucks, first thing you want to do is respond.  It’s simple as saying, “We’re here to provide any support or assistance with the product. Please let us know and we’ll put you in touch with the right contact.” Then, send a follow up note to your tech support to ensure they know who the customer/user is and the status.
  • Follow up – Always follow up with the user to ensure they are happy and they are getting the right support. Key thing is for the tech support team to follow up independently with the customer to ensure all issues are being addressed in a timely manner.
  • Educate and Communicate – Take the time to do an education course for your tech support / services team. Work across your business units to ensure they know what you and your team is working in terms of monitoring that voice on an ongoing basis and let them know what the action plan is as far as follow up, etc.

Remember, join the conversation and really leverage your resources to ensure your PR is in touch with what’s going on within your organization and outside. Communicate across all the right channels to ensure your brand is being protected and your customers are happy.  This is great PR.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. It’s nice to a PR professional that really cares about ensuring that there is substance behind the corporate message – integrity is a critical aspect of public relations and social media. Unfortunately, sometimes it is overlooked in favor of generating senseless hype.

  2. Chris Hewitt says:

    Great commentary and insight Cindy…especially when illustrated through some real-world examples!

    I agree that social media is a powerful medium for gathering feedback and returning a consistent, authentic message to customers (real PR).

    How would do you think same concept could be efficiently applied in small business, where resources may be limited and the time is, seemingly, never available?

    • Chris,
      Thank you for your comments. I think the same rule applies (whatever the size). But given that you may have smaller resources to work with at a small company, I think the key thing is here to get started – one social media channel at a time. My boss wrote a great blog post recently on how this former 4-star chef started his own mobile Korean BBQ/Taco business and launched it via Twitter. Now he has over 20K followers. This speaks to the power of not only WOM but also how it can pay dividends by harnessing the power of social media. His blog is http://www.marketinggimbal.com. Take a look.

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