The new definition of PR: 'personal recommendation'

We need to start explaining to our clients that customer service is as important as PR, and that an army of half a million people screaming about how good your service is can be just as beneficial as a front-page article placement.

PR 30 years ago: A guy walks into a bar and sees a woman across the room. He goes up to her and says “you don't know me, but I'm freaking awesome in bed. Seriously, I'm that good. You should come home with me right now.” Chances are, that wouldn't work, but the guy didn't have any other moves. That's all he had to work with. The man went home alone.

PR today: That same guy walks into a bar with his iPad and sits down and orders a beer. As he's drinking his beer and playing Angry Birds: Space, two beautiful women walk into the bar and sit down across the room. They've been friends for over 20 years, and tell each other everything. All of a sudden, one of them notices our guy, and exclaims to her other friend – “OMG! That's (insert guy's name here.) He's awesome! I've heard so many good things about him! He's so handsome, and so kind, and he has a cat, and he runs his own company, and he's nice to his mother, and has a good heart, and is literate, and you should totally go talk to him, OMG.” Said guy winds up going home with the girl.

Welcome to the new definition of PR: personal recommendation.

We need to start teaching our clients that getting press isn't the only way to do PR anymore. Sure, it's still a major way, and will continue to be, but we need to learn how to work with our clients to teach them that the new publicists are their customers – the ones who have the power, via their mobile phone, camera phone, iPad, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, their blog, YouTube, you name it, to raise your company up or take it down in flames.

We need to start explaining to our clients that customer service is as important as PR, and that an army of half a million people screaming about how good your service is can be just as beneficial - sometimes even more so - than a front-page article placement.

And before you freak out that the benefits of customer service are going to cause you to lose your job, relax, they won't. If you're good at PR, and if you've read my previous posts, you know that's a pretty big “if.” There will always be a job for you. Good publicists aren't going away. (Bad ones hopefully will…) There will always be clients whose message needs help getting out there, and companies will always pay for good counsel.

But the smart publicists are the ones who can work hand in hand with the client to explore new ways to improve the customer experience, and then help the customer tell that story. Remember my experience with Morton's Steakhouse last summer? That wasn't pre-planned or faked – It was just me, hungry, and a fan of Morton's. The end result? Millions in free publicity for Morton's, as well as a noticeable increase in sales. (And a steak for me.)

When you're able to play the two hand-in-hand, PR gets a whole lot easier. Try it.

Peter Shankman is small business evangelist at Vocus.  

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