Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
April 18, 2008

Is Client Relations the New Media Relations?

Media Relations 101 teaches you the basics of interacting with journalists. You provide media outlets with timely, honest, interesting information that’s relevant to their audience. You respond promptly when they ask questions and you follow up when needed to make sure they have everything they need for a story. In short, PR people are taught to help build a symbiotic relationship with journalists and provide them information they can use. You know the drill.

But in this new era of “citizen journalism,” where anyone with a computer can spread information about your brand, is client relations quickly becoming the new media relations?  Should PR practitioners counsel organizations to treat customers in the same way PR folk treat media: providing open, honest, authentic information in a timely manner?

A lot of companies still aren’t sure how to handle the onslaught of attention (both positive and negative) social media has allowed customers to give to a brand, let alone give up the illusion of control that they’ve always had.  This is where public relations is poised to take the lead. Imagine if companies started listening and responding to customers in the same way PR people follow up with their top editors?

Granted, every company is different, and there are all kind of rules stating what a company can and cannot say at various times.  But let’s use this as an opportunity to elevate public relations’ stature within organizations.

Public relations needs to come up with a game plan to advise companies how to spot genuine word-of-mouth movements when they happen, and then know how to capitalize on them.  Let’s talk about how everyone — from customer service to sales to senior management — can start to look at client relations in the same way a PR pro would treat his or her top media contact. What do you think? I look forward to hearing your thoughts and questions as we delve more into this topic, both here and during the PRSA teleseminar on May 6, 2008.

By Geno Church, chief inspiration officer, Brains on Fire, develops word of mouth, buzz, viral and evangelism strategies for the agency’s clients. In his 13+ years with Brains On Fire, Geno has helped build word of mouth into the identities of brands including Fiskars Brands, the American Booksellers Association, National Family Partnership, and Rage Against the Haze (South Carolina’s youth-led anti-tobacco movement).

Join Geno, along with Spike Jones, for their co-presentations, “How to Grow Word-of-Mouth Movements: People Are the Killer App” and “How Sustainable Word-of-Mouth Marketing Can Help Boost Your Bottom Line: Strategies on How to Identify Buzz-building Opportunities for Your Brand.”

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