Business and media relations

4 Creative Ways to Launch a Customer-Centric Media Strategy

The media landscape is constantly changing – it’s difficult to keep up with what reporters want and what they don’t.

Let’s say you are a technology vendor … You’d like to have a strategic, glowing profile in a choice publication to capture the attention of potential partners, industry pundits and – of course – investors. But these stories are getting harder and harder to sell. Every so often, a company can break through and prove it’s worthy of such coverage. But, frankly, it’s rare, and media outlets are continuously raising the bar in assessing whether to greenlight these profiles. The same applies to case studies which mainly serve to showcase a vendor’s technologies.

So, what do reporters want these days, beyond breaking news? In our conversations with them, they say they’re seeking broader stories that focus on challenges, opportunities and responses that their readers (who are potential customers of our clients, the vendors) will relate to. They’re pursuing multi-dimensional stories with a range of perspectives, to inform readers about new approaches and innovations which aren’t necessarily tied to a single vendor.

This signifies a marketing shift to what we call a customer-centric media strategy, to prioritize that customer’s journey, interests and concerns – as opposed to one which is solely intended to promote what the vendor is selling.

Don’t get us wrong: The vendor’s products/services are still incorporated into the customer-centric media strategy. But they play more of a supportive role to the larger theme of addressing the needs of the target audience.

So how do you launch this strategy? We’ve had great success with these four initiatives:

Hosting customer roundtable/panel discussions. This is when we’ve put customers (and, in some cases, the vendor/client) front and center to present insights about challenges they’re seeing and industry developments in general, along with responses. Again, the vendor/client is there to lend support, not “sell stuff.” The vendor/client expert who is participating should relate to the customer as a peer during this event, sharing perspectives about experiences, pain points and solutions.

Conducting customer surveys. Surveys – especially those which include both quantitative findings and observational quotes from participants – allow customers to “speak” to reporters directly, leading to data-driven storytelling. As with the roundtables/panels, we’re focused on challenges and possible responses. The survey serves the client’s interests because, as an agency, we ensure that it aligns with needed messaging points.

Promoting the “customer journey” as a story. We look for customers who are solving interesting challenges (such as supply-chain security, compliance, risk strategies, the digital transformation, etc.) in which the client supports the resolution process. We also seek customers who can talk about the “bigger picture” when breaking news events (the SolarWinds hack serving as a textbook example) dominate the headlines … What are they seeing on a daily basis that contributes to these events? How should organizations react to best protect themselves or – in the case of a positive trend/event – most effectively leverage existing approaches and tools? The answer to the second question should convey the client’s role in supporting the customer.

Identifying the client’s internal experts who can share customer experiences. Not traditional evangelists, but experts who can share customer viewpoints, challenges and experiences in a way that adds color to a reporter’s story. Reporters are often under extremely tight deadlines and don’t have the time for an agency to set up a customer interview. They need to quote someone smart, and they need to talk to them now. That’s why you have to have client experts readily available who deal directly with customers, to share this story.

The W2 Communications team is always talking to reporters and editors to align our efforts with what they’re looking for – it not only informs our strategies, but it helps us build indispensable relationships and instant credibility (with reporters and clients). In developing a customer-centric media strategy, we’re directly responding to what publications need now while still promoting our clients’ products, services and messaging points. If this sounds like something you’d like to discuss further, then please contact us.