Do you have a customer who is particularly thrilled with your company? Is there a long-term customer who you really enjoy talking to even if they’re citing things they’re unhappy with? If you do and they would make for a good exterior spokesperson for your company and its services or products to journalists, then utilize them!
Most times a journalist (if they’re a good journalist) will ask you if you have any customer references available for them to call. The key to answering this request is to give them someone who is happy with your product, but also someone who is not trained in your “corporate speak.”
You need to have faith that your customer will give insights to your product or services from an unbiased and unvarnished user perspective. Let the customer tell the “real story”. It can seem scary to do this, but nine times out of ten it will make your company story more powerful in the finished article and it establishes trust with the journalist.
You know your product is the best so why not be afraid to let a customer openly talk with a reporter about their experience of your product.
Here’s some sample stock questions any reporter worth their typing digits will ask of the customer:
How has your experience been with the product?
What is one thing you desire in this product that you haven’t seen yet?
Is there anything that you found disatisfying about this service or product?
Okay, those seem a bit daunting, but they’re not! Here’s the key, if you can answer these questions yourself honestly about your product or service, then you’ll be able to respond to the reporter confidently when he/she calls back for your response to the customer’s responses.
Let’s say the customer says, “I would really like to see this product come out with an easier user interface.”
So if you’re asked in follow-up, you can say, “I’m really glad you asked that question. We’re very excited about the work we’re doing around that and we’re tweaking the user interface and are very hopeful that a new version will be released at the end of the year.”
Always take advantage of what the customer says even if it’s negative.
Don’t respond defensively, respond pro-actively. If it’s something you have no plans of addressing, there is still a way to say it with what I term a “positive win” not spin.
What that means is to tell the truth that you’ve heard that comment before, but for the majority of your customers the current product form works well, but you’re always striving for improvement so you’re glad to hear there is still room for improving.
If you feel stifled by a reporter’s question by the way, a great phrase to use to give yourself a moment to collect your thoughts is,”I’m so glad you asked that question.”
Make a list today of five customers you would be willing to let a journalist talk to, email those customers and ask them if you can keep them in your “media bank” and give out their contact information to journalists.
And remember, everyone loves an oddball, so if you’ve got a customer who is really doing something unique with your product, or is just a character in general to talk to, then get them in your media bank. They can often enliven what would might be an otherwise bland story.
Now go and find those oddballs!