'There's no such thing as bad publicity' is a well-known phrase that’s often attributed to Phineas T. Barnum, the 19th century American showman and circus owner. As long as people are talking about your company/product, the threat of irrelevance is not an issue - or so it is said. This theory has been proven false over and over throughout history, including Mr. Barnum’s own circus, which closed its doors after 146 years due to surging criticism from animal rights groups for its alleged treatment of animals and a direct correlation to declining ticket sales.
Bad PR does in fact exist and this is more true today than ever. With an economy that’s shifted dramatically over the last several years to align with customers’ preferences for “on-demand” everything, the net-net of this transition is the quality of the customer experience (CX) your company provides. Not just a trendy buzzword, a good experience with a brand is no longer driven by the lowest price, a great ad campaign or digital strategy – it’s driven by customer demand. At a high level, customers have come to expect a customized and personalized experience driven by all the shiny new technologies available, whether at the grocery store, online shopping or dealing with the cable company. No organization is immune from the mandate for delivering an exceptional customer experience, every time. The cost is steep: a loss of market share, an impact on revenue and bad PR.
There is a direct correlation between the experience your company delivers and the earned media it accrues. Let’s back up to the three distinct types of PR that are typical: paid, owned and earned media. While the first two refer to the ads you pay for and the content you create and publish on your channels (ebooks, whitepapers, blogs), earned media combines all the content and conversation around your brand that you have not created. It is published on a third party channel (press coverage, reviews site, social media, TV spot) and amplifies your company’s activity - for better or for worse. PR is one vehicle for achieving earned media, but so is the customer experience you create.
It’s this simple: people talk.
According to research, 95 percent of consumers share bad experiences with others and more than two-thirds of consumers (68 percent) report they would be willing to pay 15 percent more for the same product or service if they could be guaranteed a better experience. Pair this with the fact that customer experience is the new competitive battleground, and it’s clear that CX is not just a major piece of your overall business strategy, it has the ability to push PR - and your brand’s image - in one direction or the other.
Your own customers (and even your employees) are a great vehicle for PR, when they too become champions of the experience you offer. Coupled with a strong thought leadership platform and a strategic PR program that reaches your distinct audiences with the right messages in the right places, and you’ve got a PR marriage made in heaven.
The opposite is true too. Take a horrific customer experience and break it down. Once you get past the nature of this incident, consider the effect it had on the company’s brand and its PR. This is easily quantified by the beating of its stock which fell 3.4 percent in four days, wiping out nearly $1 billion in market cap. The qualifiable impact is the long-lasting damage to its brand that can only be restored with time and a complete overhaul in its approach to pleasing the customer.
At the end of the day the sum of the parts add up: done right, the rewards of a solid customer experience strategy are boundless, both for the success of your company and your PR. But where to start? Get to know your customers, who they are, where they live, what they like. Personalize and customize their experiences. Prioritize CX because its impact on positive earned media - customer reviews, social posts, media mentions - is invaluable. And forget the way we did things yesterday because the future is here and it’s all about the customer.