May 25, 2010
How To

Get Press Coverage for Customer Success Stories: 6 Tactics

SUMMARY: The testimonial of a happy customer often carries more weight with prospects than any message your marketing team can create. And having these customers featured in the media is a great way to tell your brand’s story.

Read how LinkedIn’s marketers find stories from happy customers and get them press coverage. Includes advice on:
o Stories to avoid
o Matching a customer with the right reporter
o Preparing customers for interviews
by Adam T. Sutton, Reporter

Patrick Crane, VP, Marketing, and Krista Canfield, Senior Manager, PR, LinkedIn, found their audience had a wealth of stories about how the professional social network helped them achieve personal and professional goals.

They realized they were sitting on a marketing goldmine, and have been collecting and promoting these stories in the press for the last year.

"It’s not about our story or growth," Crane says. "It’s about every kind of professional in every kind of profession and how they’re using [LinkedIn] in unexpected ways."

Crane says the a media relations strategy focused on customer stories helped his team humanize LinkedIn’s brand, and helped them capture more press in a wider array of publications. The team regularly lands features in:
o Business magazines
o Mainstream news outlets
o Various trade media

We asked Crane to describe how his team finds customer success stories, ensures they are worth featuring, and gets them into the press. Here are six key tactics:

Tactic #1. Look for stories with broad relevance

Millions of people use LinkedIn, which makes for millions of stories the team could potentially use. But when choosing customers as article subjects, they avoid the stories of success with outsized results.

For example, an SVP who captured $2 million in new business by using LinkedIn might be a powerful story, but it’s not an ideal fit. It doesn’t relate to the brand’s core audience: Average professionals looking to improve their professional lives.

"You can overdo aspirational to the point that the consumer doesn’t relate. We had to discover that," Crane says.

- Look for enthusiasm

Besides having a relatable story, a key element for potential article subjects is enthusiasm -- the team needs people who are excited to tell their story, Canfield says.

"That enthusiasm naturally carries over when they tell that story to a reporter or to the press."

Tactic #2. Use internal channels for find good customer stories

The team first started collecting customer stories about a year ago, after realizing some employees knew of several examples. They also occasionally received emails and messages from excited members describing their success.

"It it started with a small pool of maybe 10 to 15 stories we heard just inside our own network," Canfield says.

- Create submission form on website

The team hosts "Success Story" page in the press area of their website. The page includes a link to a form to submit a story, and also about ten links to real story examples (see Useful Links below).

Tactic #3. Look for stories in social networks

The team created a "Friends of LinkedIn" group on their network to help find additional stories.

They started by posting questions to solicit stories from specific types of customers they wanted to feature, such as:
o Do any Canadian members have LinkedIn success stories?
o Have any accountants used LinkedIn to improve their business?

Members who join the group have a badge added to their LinkedIn profile, which helps promote awareness and has built the group to 850 members. Group members also refer friends with good stories to tell.

This tactic can work on other social networks that feature grouping capabilities, such as Facebook. You also can ask your followers on social networks (such as Twitter) if they or their colleagues have success stories involving your brand.

Tactic #4. Match stories with reporters’ needs

The team encounters a wide variety of stories. Some are drafted and stored for later use. Others are noted, in case they want to connect the member with a reporter later.

The team strives to pitch success stories in relevant publications. For example:

- Executive-level member stories work better in publications such as Forbes or Fortune.

- Trade publications often look to feature people in the trade. For example, a Human Resources Director would be good to pitch to HR Magazine.

- Stories from more general professions can work better in general news and business publications, such as USAToday and the Wall Street Journal.

The team also hunts down stories for reporters with specific needs. For example, Canfield once chatted with a Forbes reporter interested in writing about the changing nature of business cards. She started a discussion in the team’s LinkedIn group and found someone from the Chamber of Commerce in Mountain View, CA, who relied on LinkedIn’s Palm Pre application to organize business contacts, essentially digitizing his Rolodex.

Tactic #5. Prepare members for interviews

The PR team works with all interviewees to prepare them for the process. They explain:
o The reporter’s topic and publication
o Questions the reporter would ask

The team also presents the interview as an opportunity for the member to get themselves and their businesses into the press -- making the opportunity a win-win for all parties.

- Ensure brand safety

As mentioned, the team features enthusiastic members. They also look for people who would not inadvertently damage LinkedIn’s brand. For example, LinkedIn emphasizes members should connect to people they know and trust. Therefore, the team avoided people who might convey that "everyone should connect with everyone," Crane says.

"That breaks down trust, and then LinkedIn doesn’t work properly."

Tactic #6. Treat B2B customers more carefully

Basic LinkedIn memberships are free. They also sell upgraded memberships and recruiting solutions for businesses. As with their consumer members, the team featured their B2B customers in relevant publications, as well as in breakfast meetings with other companies to discuss how LinkedIn helped their recruiting.

The main difference between featuring the team’s individual members and their business customers, Crane says, is that the businesses often need to know exactly how their stories will be used.

"We try to manage expectations with our B2B customers very carefully, so they never feel surprised or that we’ve taken too much of a liberty," Crane says.

The team finds these stories by first looking for very satisfied customers. They typically do not approach a company with an interview proposal unless certain the company is happy with their services.

Useful links related to this article

Members Library -- Quick, Low-Cost Customer Interviews: 8 Steps to Develop New Marketing Collateral

Members Library -- How to Collect Higher Impact Testimonials from Consulting Clients: 7 Practical Tips

LinkedIn: Press coverage

LinkedIn: Success stories submission page

LinkedIn: Success stories

Friends of LinkedIn Group


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