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Feb 29, 2008
Interview

PR Interview: How to Pitch CustomerThink: 15 Tips

SUMMARY: CustomerThink is the largest online community for customer relationship management. The website changed its name last year from CRMGuru.com. It reaches 300,000 readers a month in 200 countries with articles, blogs, forums and news on customer-centric business practices. We interviewed CustomerThink's founder and CEO to find out how you can craft the perfect "story proposal."
Contact information

Bob Thompson
CEO
CustomerThink Corp.
1615 Willow Ave.
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 343-8529
bob(at)customerthink(dot)com
http://customerthink.com


Background

Thompson founded CustomerThink as CRMGuru.com in January 2000; he renamed it last year. He has been a prolific writer on customer management for many years. Previously, he worked for 15 years in the IT industry, including as a business unit executive and IT strategy consultant at IBM. He holds a bachelor's degree in math and an MBA from the University of California at Irvine.

Circulation and readership

- 300,000 monthly readers in 200 countries
- 150,000 weekly subscribers to CustomerThink Advisor newsletter

Audience consists mostly of mid- to upper-level managers and executives, including general managers and leaders of marketing, sales, and customer service organizations. Thompson says that the site also has "a strong following in business-oriented IT managers and professionals striving to improve customer-focused processes."

Examples of current editorial coverage

The website and newsletters cover technology, strategy, goals, metrics, people, processes and design. Members contribute articles, blogs, comments, discussions and news. Featured bloggers follow an annual editorial calendar; it concentrates on industry research and is influenced by input from subscribers and CRM leaders.

Website

Research library:
http://www.customerthink.com/research
Articles:
http://www.customerthink.com/all_articles
News/Press releases:
http://www.customerthink.com/all_news
Forum discussions:
http://www.customerthink.com/all_forums

New Media:

* The CustomerThink Boardroom is a free resource to registered email subscribers who receive access to the CustomerQ (TM) assessment tool, webcasts and white papers.

* CustomerQ (TM) online tool offers immediate feedback on how an organization's management capabilities compare to others in the site's global database. In 15 minutes, the assessment generates a score a composite index of five customer management attributes that reveals which areas need improvement.

* Newsletters:
o CustomerThink Advisor weekly newsletter offering commentary and tips from industry leaders.
o CustomerThink Alert weekly announcements of white papers, webcasts, reports.

* CustomerThink introduced blogging in January 2007. Thompson says "it has been a big hit," with contributors writing more than 500 blog posts, nearly 800 news items and more than 1,000 comments since then. In 2008, they're considering adding podcasts and other types of Web 2.0 content.
http://www.customerthink.com/all_blogs

15 Tips on Pitching CustomerThink

Tip #1. Read editorial guidelines first:
http://www.customerthink.com/editorial_guidelines

Tip #2. Look at editorial calendar:
http://www.customerthink.com/editorial_calendar_2008
Find a topic at least three months in advance and customize your article to fit it.

Tip #3. Follow deadlines.
Editors work on a two-month cycle with first drafts due the first Friday of the month prior to publication. Proposals should be submitted as early as possible because topics fill up quickly. If your proposal is accepted, you'll receive an email stating a specific deadline. If you
send an email query during the week, you'll receive a reply on the same day. If you send a pitch on a weekend (after 5 p.m. Pacific Time Friday), you'll get an answer by the next Monday.

Tip #4. Browse website:
http://www.customerthink.com

Thompson welcomes relevant pitches from those familiar with the website's material: "It's a good idea to click around CustomerThink to see what type of content we have available the stories, blogs and news that are featured on the homepage, the leadership pages, the best practices pages and the category pages." You will get a sense of the type of content the site features and the subjects they've already covered. Don't embarrass yourself by pitching old news.

Tip #5. Send content of practical use.
Suggest a novel way of approaching the business-customer relationship or a strong industry strategy. Thompson says: "We're looking for conversational, opinionated pieces that take a real-life example to explore tactically how the author's argument plays out in real life to make a business customer-centric and successful." In your pitch, or "story proposal," suggest a working title, along with a brief explanation of the premise, example and the intended audience.

Tip #6. Start with a short introduction.
Let the readers know who you are and why they should pay attention to what you have to say.

Tip #7. Captivate your listeners.
Write a first-person account supported by multiple anecdotes. Pretend you're trying to entertain your party guests -- open the story with an engaging tale. Describe what steps a company took that led to success. Or, if an organization has failed, illustrate why. What recommendation of yours did it ignore that led to the downfall? Provide details without using bullet points. Instead, focus on one tip and elaborate, explaining how it was/would be/should be carried out.

Tip #8. Get a little help from your photos.
Editors love relevant illustrations for pieces.

Tip #9. Keep it honest.
Examples should be factual unless stated otherwise. But keep company names confidential.

Tip #10. Remember your grammar teacher.
Pretend you're writing a resume; use active voice.

Tip #11. Don't advertise.
CustomerThink is vendor-neutral.

Tip #12. Provide references.
No footnotes, please; cite statistics and quotations in parentheses within the body of the story. List date, author, publication and article name.

Tip #13. Write 500 to 1,000 words.
Hint: if your piece is shorter, post it as a blog instead.

Tip #14. Include a four-color headshot and a 50-word bio at the bottom of the article.
Make sure it states your current position, company and email address. You can list previous experience, publications, degrees and residence.

Tip #15. Contact the managing editor.
Email your pitch, but don't attach anything except creative.

How Not to Pitch

* Thompson says: "We frown on too many bullet points or 'steps'."
* Don't pitch stories that are too "pie in the sky" or "customer 101."
* Editors don't want to see hard-copy press kits. Thompson suggests: "Save a tree and send email instead!"
* Don't send prewritten submissions. If you have an article that would work for CustomerThink, send a proposal. Thompson says: "Just writing it up is a good gauge of whether the story is appropriate for us. If you cannot turn it into our proposal format, the story most likely would not work for CustomerThink."

Other Ways to Contribute to CustomerThink

* Besides writing articles, members can blog (200 to 500 words, informal unedited pieces); participate in the discussion forum; post news (press releases), or comment on content.

* You can become a columnist simply by blogging regularly. CustomerThink has a few "featured bloggers" authors writing monthly to key sites. If you want to become a featured blogger, prove yourself with consistently well-written pieces.

* All registered users can post press releases. The managing editor will select the top news items each day for the homepage. Each week, they choose five Editor's Picks news postings to promote in the CustomerThink Advisor newsletter.

Meet Thompson, other editors

Thompson attends and speaks at numerous conferences throughout the year. Send him an email to request a meeting. He might also accept a breakfast or lunch meeting if it includes the "person that I'm trying to learn more about."


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