One of the best public relations tactics is also one of the simplest: Tell success stories. Sharing solid examples of how you’ve helped your customers is a surefire way to interest both media and potential clients.
Sometimes called case studies, these anecdotes are powerful tools to convey your company’s effectiveness. Here are some tips for sharing your success stories:
- Think backward: The best stories have a happy ending, so start there first. Determine which of your projects most successfully solved a problem or overcame a challenge. Then go back to the beginning, spell out the problem, detail the planned solution, and then describe the result. For example, if you run a home health care business and you were able to help a previously homebound elderly client start regularly visiting a senior center for bingo nights, you might focus on that story (with the client’s permission, of course). Once you’ve determined the client you want to focus on, go back and tell the story. What problems did this client have that kept him homebound? How did your business help him overcome those problems so that he was able to leave his home? What are the positive results of his regularly participating in the bingo events (perhaps increased socialization, more positive outlook, better nutrition and hygiene)?
- Aim for the target: Pick a story that will appeal to your target audience. For example, if you are a caterer and you want more business from brides (and more attention from bridal media), skip over your bar mitzvah and retirement party successes and look instead for a great story among past wedding clients.
- Get personal: The more “real” the story feels, the better it will work to persuade the audience. That means gathering as many details as possible so the reader can touch, hear, feel, and even taste the story. For example, let’s go back to the caterer. If your case study is a kosher wedding feast at a Mexican fiesta-themed party, describe the food in detail, from the surprising flavors (“an explosion of chili pepper with a refreshing spritz of lime”) to the colorful display (“a dollop of golden salsa nestled in an indigo chip”). While you can have fun with the writing (e.g., using well-known Yiddish terms such as “spritz” and “dollop” when describing the kosher food), remember to steer clear of using jargon known only to your industry.
- Make sure it’s OK to share: Check with clients to be sure they are comfortable with you telling their stories publicly. You also need to be sure they understand they won’t be compensated for sharing. Some businesses may ask clients to sign publicity releases, authorizing the widespread use of the story for publicity purposes, particularly if the story involves a child.
- Get quotes: Ask clients if they would be willing to be quoted in your press release or on your Web site or interviewed by the media. If they agree, include a quote about how your solution positively impacted their life or their own business. You may need to ask a few different questions to get the right answer, so prepare at least four questions that explore the problem, solution, and result. If the clients are willing to speak with the media, ask for their contact information (e-mail, phone, and mobile number) and their availability (best time to contact them). You can share that with the media and offer to help coordinate the interview.
Whether you call them anecdotes, success stories, or case studies, your clients’ very positive and personal tales are great for PR.
In her 16 years as a PR professional, Barbara Goldberg has helped clients in health care, alternative energy, and the performing arts tell their stories in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CBS News, ABCNews.com, and many other media outlets.