On Making Word of Mouth and PR Work Together

I2m_ultimatequestion_1 Last week I read a Business Week article on The Universal Question, Fred Reichheld’s new book about how companies should ask their customers whether or not they would recommend the company to a friend – and use that as a gauge for judging customer satisfaction.  On Friday, I heard about Fred’s keynote at the WOMMA event in Orlando, and yesterday I got an email to join a Buzz Campaign about the book.  In all, I’d say that’s a pretty successful week’s worth of marketing for a new book – and most (except for the Buzz campaign) done without any media spend at all. 

Now imagine more marketers outside of book publishers starting to use this model.  To build buzz about a new movie.  To get people to buy or test drive a new car.  To build awareness of a health issue and inspire action.  Forget about wasting dollars on television.  This is the disruptive power of word of mouth – and it fits perfectly with PR.  Of course, there is a lot of debate about this.  After all, WOM can fit into many divisions of a company … or be it’s own discipline.  Either way, it can lead to hiring and firing – as well as fierce turf wars.  But there is no denying it ties far more closely to PR than to Advertising.  And after years of being a budgetary afterthought for many clients focused mainly on their advertising spend … PR agencies that "get" word of mouth will ultimately evolve beyond the limited traditional role of media relations and crisis managers and become the strategic communications partners that most have always strived to be.

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