I adore airports.
Sure, they’re big, busy and the source of a lot of stress and frustration at times. But they’re also endlessly interesting.
I got a firsthand, daily view during three summer stints in high school and college as a passenger services aid ("wheelchair girl") at the massive Dallas/Ft. Worth airport.
Among people coming and going from every direction in the world, there were tearful family reunions, health emergencies, celebrities, weather scares, and all the usual yelling that delays induce. The drama never stopped.
That’s why I’m excited to hear about a new airport storytelling project at London’s Heathrow.
It’s a risky, uncontrolled approach to capturing customer stories. Heathrow has hired a writer, a successful author, to spend a week in the airport collecting passenger stories.
The catch: The writer asked to be able to write about whatever he sees.
The stories will go into a book published next month, to be handed out to passengers.
It’s an interesting approach. Instead of controlled customer stories to enhance public perception, the airport is pulling back the curtain to let the stories be told as they may. Pretty bold!
I still feel like the airport has veto power over what’s published. They hired the writer after all.
What do you think? Smart PR move or too risky?
A case study has been saved. It was close.
Here's how it went down:
We created a case study that my client really needed, the first one on a specific mix of products used together by one customer.
Everything went incredibly smoothly until the signoff phase. Our main customer contact sent it up to his legal team, who said effectively, "No, we don't like your release form, so we can't agree."
From there, we engaged the company's PR contact, who was frustrated that legal shot down this free PR opportunity.
The PR guy let legal know the case study was important, getting legal to take another look.
We compromised with some modifications to the legal release form and the story got through.
It's a lesson in not taking "no" for an answer. If you understand the reasons for case study rejection, you can often work through them successfully.
All's well that ends well.
Lessons learned: Let legal see the release form before starting a customer story.
Find more tips on clearing roadblocks to customer story signoff in Ch. 8 of Stories That Sell.
A dripping faucet fills a sink one drop at a time.
Such is the process of marketing and PR in the new world with thousands of distributed, targeted media opportunities. A little exposure here, a little there, and you slowly build awareness about your product, service or business in front of just the right audience.
But some drips ripple more than others.
Take a feature story in a very targeted industry publication, for example. Steven Rainwater of Treeside Communications shared his story about how a customer-story article, written for a client, turned into sales.
As a writer and PR consultant, Steve crafts customer success stories for clients and assists in landing media coverage. This summer, he wrote a feature-length article for his client, UNIST Inc., that ran in the July 2008 issue of Modern Applications News.
"It happened to fit a slot the publication editor was trying to fill, so I wrote it up for him a couple of months prior," Steve said.
The story features the success of Bear Metal Works, which purchased a 200-3S Saw Coolubing System from UNIST, a Grand Rapids, MI manufacturer of lubrication systems for metal shops.
The story made a surprisingly fast, impressive impact.
"Before July was over, I happened to be talking with one of the inside sales people at my client and she mentioned they had already had at least a half dozen calls in response to the above article, and about 3-5 orders for systems like the ones mentioned in the article," Steve said. "Those initial sales amount to about 10-15 times what they paid me for the article. What I thought was interesting is the quickness of the response, still being July."
Following that, UNIST received permission to use excerpts from the article in upcoming trade show materials.
On the back end, the publication ran the article Steve submitted with few changes. The article was one of many PR activities the company has done, but really hit the right audience in this case. What an amazing impact when that happens.
The take-aways here:
Look out for opportunities to provide relevant content to key media in your area of focus
Customer stories are compelling to editors and their readers
I've been following the U.S. Olympic trials for swimming this past week. The new Speedo swimsuit seems to be making a bigger splash than the athletes wearing them.
That's because the suit itself has so many success stories tied to it. Since Speedo introduced the suit in February, more than 40 new world records have been set by athletes wearing it. It's seen as such a competitive advantage that athletes are considering defecting from current sponsors to wear it. Wow!
In interviews for magazines, newspapers and on TV, reporters ask about the suits and swimmers just rave.
In this case, the product and athletes' success were so noticeable that the suit spoke for itself. Speedo doesn't need to create its own formal case studies. But it just goes to show you the power of compelling stories tied to a product or service - especially in generating media coverage.
I'm always on the lookout for real examples of customer success stories in action. Feel free to share whenever you come across one.