Monday, August 25, 2014

7 Tips on Developing a 3rd-Party Spokespeople Database

One things many companies, especially start-ups, need to do is to recruit customers to serve as third-party spokespeople to provide quotes for the media and analysts as well as talk with prospective customers.

One of the challenges of enlisting customers is to make sure you have a database set up to take advantage of the customers, their different stories -- so that they don't remain only in the heads of the sales people.

Here are some steps to consider as you develop a compelling customer spokesperson program:

  1. Create a template of contact info: The template is important to make it easy to gather and search among your different customer. The template should include sections that include the general story for which they could serve as a spokesperson as well as customer segment, internal sales rep, etc. 
  2. Write a letter to explain this initiative: To explain what you're looking in terms of the program and their help. This will help customers understand their commitment.
  3. Design media training guidelines: This is to help customers know how to describe your company and product. (You might be surprised that even enthusiastic clients might not describe you and your product the way you would like them too.)
  4. Develop standard internal interview questions: This will make the database consistent so you will have a better idea of what the customer is willing to do, which can range from a willingness to talk with the media based on a background-only basis (i.e., not for direct attribution), talking to the media on a first-name-only basis (Norman, a father of three, said…), providing an attributed quote willing to provide photo, willing to talk only to analysts or some customers, only, etc.
  5. Create a process to triage media opportunities. This is important to help work with reporters, who are often on deadline, along with customers, who are often busy working on their own jobs. Part of that process should streamline the demands on your customers, provide your customers with background on the opportunity so they can feel comfortable conducting the interview, easily confirm interview times, and provide them with any resulting coverage (which they can use internally).
  6. Distribute periodic updates/info about your company: Once you have identified the customers who have agreed to serve as spokespeople, and once you have interviewed them, you need to make sure they are up-to-speed on the latest developments in your products and company -- so that they can talk to reporters about current products and direction.  Depending on the number of customers willing to serve as spokespeople, these updates can be distributed as part of a newsletter or as part of personalized outreach to these customers.
  7. Check in personally to make sure the client continues to be happy. Beyond updates on your business, it's important to check in to make sure your client continues to be happy. This is an important way to maintain the quality of your third-party spokesperson program. For example, customers may move within or leave their organization, and the worst time to find out is when you're trying to get them to talk with a reporter on deadline. Periodic check-ins enable you to keep the list current. 
Following these tips by themselves won't guarantee a successful third-party spokesperson program. But they are essential to running a smooth, efficient program. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

7 Tips for Welcoming Reporters at Events

In this age of webinars and online events, it can be easy to forget that there are still a lot of in-person events that may require to check-in attendees, events like conferences, trade shows, galas, annual meetings and press conferences. Organizations remember to provide VIP guests with special care and handling but sometimes overlook the fact that media attendees also need special care when being checked in to an event.  

Based on more than two decades of working with reporters at press conferences, trade shows and other events, here are some best practices on how to handle media.

1.   Make sure the media qualifications/credentialing process is up-to-date. Ten years ago, to be considered a member of the media, one had to be either a staff reporter or editor or a freelance writer with a number of recent clips. These days, bloggers, podcasters and others are now considered media – and turning such people away could cause more problems via negative blog posts, tweets, etc.
2.   Maintain a separate, up-to-date media database. To be effective, media relations teams must research and maintain a database of their key reporters. Because reporters move around so often these days, media databases are valuable only if they are kept up-to-date. Often times, when reporters show up to register to attend a conference or event, they often provide updated information that is important to capture.
3.   Make it easy for reporters to register and check in. Consider offering online registration to speed onsite registration, and make sure to have pre-printed press badges, blank extras on hand for last-minute walk-ins, along with extra press kits (whether electronic, on flash drives or paper). Also consider having a separate registration area, with clear signage, and trained personnel to check reporters in – particularly reporters who, at the last minute, have decided to attend an event, which means their names may not be in the media database. Having a separate registration station means that reporters won’t get in the way of other VIP attendees such as speakers, sponsors and benefactors, board members, etc.
4.   Make it easy to capture walk-in reporters’ contact info. If reporters walk up to the same registration tables as the general public, their information may not get forwarded to the correct people. If a walk-in reporter’s information goes to a general volunteer, it may get lost, making it difficult to track media attendees and to follow-up with them afterwards. It is vital that media contact info gets forwarded to the media list for future events; instead, if contact info gets included in non-media databases, it will be impossible to find that data and to use it to the organization's advantage in the future.
5.   Train key staffers on how to work with reporters.  Untrained volunteers can actually damage relationships that an organization needs to maintain with reporters. For example, a couple of years ago, at a nonprofit's big event, a well meaning volunteer turned away a wire service reporter, who walked walked away in a huff, and never wrote about the organization.  On the other hand, trained volunteers and staffers would know how and be empowered to handle reporters, especially walk-ins, who otherwise might be turned away. Reporters are looking for a quick, efficient way to check in; they want to work with people who know how to work with them. Organizations can easily get a reputation for being unprofessional and hard to work with, and it’s important to take the steps to prevent your organization from being seen in that light.
6.   Identify locations, times, etc. that may offer better photo and story opportunities. Reporters often rely on the people registering to help them get a sense of where they can find good visuals, good stories, etc.  Make sure the content you've developed is shareable by social media, which includes using a hashtag for your event.Typically, general volunteers are focused on separate issues, and end up being a hindrance to reporters, which again could damage a relationship. Those trained in how to deal with the media, on the other hand, can enhance the trust necessary for strong relationships with reporters.
7.  Make sure to follow-up appropriately. While reporters usually don’t like “follow-up calls,” it’s different if you are able to offer photos, video, audio or other content, including interviews with people they weren't able to get. These calls are part of the process of helping reporters so consider asking their feedback in terms of what could be improved to help the media cover similar events in the future. For example, years ago, after a reporter complained about the sound quality at the back of the room where the TV cameras were positioned, I’ve always made sure to have technology in place that can enhance the audio feed.

Checking in reporters professionally and efficiently with the help of people trained and equipped to work with media can make a big difference in the relationship that organizations can build and maintain with those reporters. 

Let me know if you have other tips.