May 26, 2010
Finding Your Rock Stars: Why a Community Outreach Program is Important
Photo credit: DavidDMuir
How do you use PR to reach your buyers? Do you issue press releases and pitch to your media list of journalists, hoping to get a write-up or some sort of media exposure? Or do you reach out directly to the people who are actively buying and evangelizing your products or services and influencing hundreds or thousands (hundreds of thousands, even) other buyers via blogs, forums, social networks, news sites, podcasts, and other consumer communities – your rock stars?
Let me ask you another question: which one of these methods just mentioned do you think is more effective?
OK, I didn't mean to lead you on this, because even if you're using the former method (press releases to a media list), you may be getting the results you want – and that's excellent. I'm not trying to say that there's a right answer and a wrong answer, but I am telling you that in the last 5 years, outreach has become so much more than simply media outreach. The PR landscape has shifted to community outreach. According to David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR (an excellent book I highly recommend, by the way), "The Internet has made public relations public again, after years of almost exclusive focus on media."
What is community outreach? It's about generating positive word-of-mouth and building relationships with your influential customers in order to drive conversions (whether that's buying a product, attending a conference, subscribing to a publication, getting donations or another action taken). It's also about finding, as I mentioned before, your rock stars. These are actual customers who are bloggers, forum admins, list owners, group leaders, or other thought leaders who are actively talking about your products and spreading the good word about your company to other buyers like them; but, most importantly, they are influencers within your customer community. When they talk, people listen.
So, if a press clip and media exposure is what you want, then the media is who you reach out to. If you want buyers, though, you find and reach out to your rock stars. This is why community outreach is so crucial to both your PR and marketing efforts. Besides, if you don’t find the influencers, you can be sure that the competition (or even your "coop-etition" – a cross between a competitor and someone with which you're in cooperation/partnership) will!
But you don't just pitch to them like you would a media list of journos – you have to build relationships by following these principles:
- Offer value. Tune your radio to WIIFM (What's In It For Me) and listen to what this person needs and/or wants from your products, then offer them something that addresses those needs and wants. Make your communication benefit-driven, rather than feature-driven.
- Be authentic. Introduce yourself. Tell them who you represent and why you're reaching out. Don’t hide behind a corporate brand or misrepresent yourself. Don’t overhype or speak in too much marketing jargon. Put on your buyer's cap.
- Be personal. Call them by name. Talk about their site and a post in particular that you found of particular interest. Make the connection between their site and your company/products so they see that your paying attention and not just pitching blindly.
- Be relevant. Reach out to those individuals and groups that will be interested in what you have to offer. Your chances of building a relationship are much greater if those to which you're reaching out understand why you are making contact.
In my next post, I’ll talk about how to find your rock stars for a community outreach program. Stay tuned!
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