Friday, March 03, 2006

"Bad Advice" About Customer References, 3 of 3

the conclusion of our series of posts about Customer References, this one keys
off of Part 2, a bit. Today’s “bad advice Don’t
ask for a press release.

So many of our clients over the years, and even today, are “all
about the press release.” Press releases
are seen as terrific vehicles for getting the word out. For uneducated clients,
getting the press release out the door is as exciting as a Wall Street Journal hit.

But you need to know, if you don’t already:

Most press
releases suck
, and, many journalists
hate them

You also need to know that asking
for a press release is the single fastest way to kill any chance for what’s
FAR MORE IMPORTANT: the customer reference.

Just as I noted about
asking for the reference via the contract, press releases also cause undue
scrutiny at all levels of the would-be reference’s workplace. It is viewed
as an “official” communication and as such riles up lawyers, CEOs, PR flacks,
etc. If the press release will never be approved, the reference will likely
not be approved, either.

As noted above, again, the best “bad” advice I can give
you is that a press release is the LAST thing you should ask for from a prospective
reference. Instead, ask for these escalating levels of referenceability:

  1. “Would you mind if we wrote a bylined article and gave
    you all the credit for it?”

  2. “Would you mind chatting briefly with an industry analyst
    who wanted to ask you about our client?”

  3. “Would you mind picking up the phone if eWeek was
    curious about your deployment of our client’s solution? We’d
    be happy to work with you in advance if you’d like some media training.”

  4. “Thanks so much for talking to eWeek; that went
    great! How often would you be open to these types of opportunities? Would
    5 interviews a year be too much?”

  5. “Thanks so much for conducting all those interviews this
    year! We would love to write-up your successes in a case study – that way
    we would be able to put off some of those interview requests…”

  6. “Did you see the case study on our client’s website? Let
    me send you a clean copy for your records. By the way, what do you think
    are the odds of putting out a press release about all this great work you’ve
    been doing with our client?”

Yes, this “bad” strategy might negate the press release
that talks about the initial win.

But SO WHAT? Wouldn’t
you rather that the client’s competitors read about the win and subsequent
benefits in a series of media features, Q&A’s and bylines? Wouldn’t
the client’s sales team prefer to show prospects a great eWeek article
(with its 3rd party, unbiased validation!), rather than a stodgy,
over-stuffed press release?

Damn right. You know
that old saw, “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers?” Well,
the next thing we do ought to be to kill off all the old-style press


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