When sales drop and investment gets nervous, it’s easy to blame the PR team. It might make you feel better. But if they’re any good, they’ll have given you indications of the real problems that are causing you to miss your business objectives.
Here are the most common:
1. Customer Experience:
Call it Customer Support, Customer Success or whatever else you want, if your customer service is lacking, nothing you say about yourself matters. People believe what they experience WAY more than what you tell them to believe. And if they have a bad experience, they’ll tell anyone who listens.
If you’re not getting lots of love from your community, start with the experience you’ve promised them and how well you measure up. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Here’s what she wants:
- Her problem to be dealt with immediately. Not when you have time.
- When you launch, if you’re glitchy, every single person in the company better be prepared to be a customer success agent and drop everything else.
- If you adopt the “well, it’s not reasonable for anyone to expect a fast response – we’re too small”, you will find yourself climbing out of a trust and experience deficit that will get harder to get out of by every passing day.
- Human interaction:
- Sound like a living breathing human that cares, not an automated robot spitting out pre-determined answers that reinforce the notion that you don’t care
- Show your corporate personality and values through every touch point you have with them. Don’t tell them who you are and what your values are. Live your values. Let your brand personality shine through. They won’t trust anything else.
If you have failed your customer, own it. Tell them you know how and why you failed and what you’re doing to win their trust back. You can only do this once. So do it right.
Then — and only then — have you earned the right to work very respectfully and carefully with the community to help them help you regain their trust.
People actually buy into your values as much or more than your product. Your brand transcends just what it is you do. It’s all about what you stand for and what you are.People aren’t looking for products or services. Yes, they’re looking for solutions to problems – but there are probably lots of options for them to choose from. Really, they’re looking for something transformative, something that won’t just solve that problem but make them feel part of something greater in doing so.
- If you don’t stand for anything, you stand for nothing, which pretty much means people don’t have a reason to believe.
- Stand for what you believe in. It is your shared values that will help you build and best serve your community.
Having a thriving culture means creating a space for people to express themselves, not just when the executive says so but all the time.
Healthier companies seek input and inspiration from the bottom up every bit as much as they expect it from the top down.
Watch key managers. Do they take credit for everything? Do they regularly get into conflict with people instead of helping them be their better selves? Do they stifle others? Or make them feel that they are not as important? Do they use phrases like “my team” and “my ideas” that make themselves seem more influential or important than they are?
In a startup, it only takes one person to throw a great dynamic out the window.
Be careful of gatekeepers. If you’re going to remove yourself from your team, make sure the gatekeeper is adding to the culture, not destroying it.
4. Your Storytelling:
Everyone has the potential to be a great storyteller, but very few people flex their storytelling muscle.
Stories are the things that unite us. They passed down our beliefs and shared myths and realities long before there was any standardized written language.
Think of your brain as your gatekeeper. Stories let you get past the brain to the heart. The heart then engages the brain, and both are enlisted in the message.
Yup, that’s what stories do.
5. Your relationships:
Strip everything away and you’ll see that people buy from people. They donate to people; they invest in people, and they engage with people. Your brand is just a collection of people.
Inside and outside of the company, you need to ensure you have healthy relationships.
To do that:
- Take care of the people that take care of you
- Treat your insiders like insiders or they’ll start acting like outsiders
- Fix the real problems, not the ones that look like the easiest fixes
- Nurture relationships – people will bend over backward to help you but only if you show that you value them
- Invest meaningfully in influencers, the people who can or who have helped you
- don’t fawn or be insincere
- help them or add value to them
- be there for them when the chips are down
- Look to connect others to each other even when it doesn’t benefit you
- Keep your word and be as transparent as possible through anything difficult
Your PR and marketing are essential to your success. But you need to ensure that every piece is moving in the right direction, or the most your PR and marketing efforts can do is keep you in the game.
Take care of the underlying problems holding you back, and good PR and marketing programs can rocket you to the top.