The Forum Corp. is a consulting firm that advises and helps companies to develop customer loyalty through its proprietary Branded Customer Experienc process. Although the company has had great success in helping clients across the globe undertake highly complex customer loyalty initiatives with positive results, the firm’s point of view has been under-publicized and perceived as difficult to communicate and understand.
In 2002, two of the company’s senior executives authored a book, entitled Managing the Customer Experience: Turning Customers Into Advocates, which sought to communicate the firm’s point of view, demonstrate thought leadership, raise the business’ profile and generate business leads. Forum enlisted Madison Communications to conduct a 90-day media relations campaign in support of the book.
The campaign’s goals were to generate favorable media coverage that would build Forum’s brand by showcasing its unique point of view on the topic; position the company favorably before three of its key audiences: HR executives, marketing executives, and senior managers; and expose the company to publications covering vertical industries in which there would be likely sales prospects
The campaign had significant positive attributes with which to work, including a smart, compelling thesis; credible, accomplished authors who practice what they preach; clients who could serve as references; a story that spoke persuasively to customer loyalty, customer retention and profit; and a solution for a recurring business challenge faced by CEOs and their companies.
The campaign also faced significant challenges. Among them:
· An abundance of speakers, authors and specialists claiming expertise on the subject and creating a clutter that required break-through messages.
· Media that had become jaded about or weary of the topic.
· The authors’ lack of name recognition; the U.S. spokesperson was a first-time author.
· A need for swift, impactful PR results and a short time in which to achieve them.
· A need to refine and enhance existing business messages for media receptivity.
· An absence of existing corporate press materials.
· A theme that was not immediately identifiable as “belonging” to any one particular functional area, i.e. marketing, HR, or general management.
To reach the intended audiences, the program sought to customize pitches by each publication’s interest area, requiring the creation of numerous, creatively-positioned story proposals for general business media, trades and verticals; creatively package information in a variety of formats (story pitches, quizzes, fact sheets, top 10 lists, op-ed and/or bylined articles, etc.); leverage news flow and current events (e.g. capitalizing on news coverage of struggling loyalty card programs by pitching stories focusing on the positive attributes of the author’s philosophy as opposed to “quick fix” schemes); and take advantage of news organizations’ own editorial priorities.
 To ensure operational success, the program developed a series of tools, templates and processes including: a comprehensive editorial calendar, a comprehensive media contact list broken down by functional area and by vertical industry, a catalogue of client examples, press kit materials that deconstructed the book in order to make the most compelling information and quotes readily available for reporters (attached), media training and support materials, and the identification of third-party research that validated the author’s position and bolstered pitches.
Lastly, the program required persistent and patient outreach that often included a heavy educational component, and significant writing support to satisfy demand for bylined articles.
The 90-day campaign, which concluded on 12/31/02, has resulted in 26 published or pending placements to date. Additionally, 11 editors or reporters are still considering story pitches for possible future publication. Highlights, broken down by target as identified by the campaign strategy, included:
· HR publications: Effective Customer Service Management, HR Executive (an interview), HR (bylined article), CLO (Chief Learning Officer), HR Professional, Workforce.
· Marketing: Brandweek, Direct Marketing Magazine (cover story), Wise Marketer.
· General management: Boston Sunday Globe, BusinessWeek, Directorship, Forbes
· Verticals: American Banker, Bank Marketing, Bank Investment Marketing, CRM Magazine, Credit Union Executive, National Hotel Executive (which requested that the author become a regular contributor), Progressive Grocer.
Due to the complexity of the company’s engagements, Forum’s Branded Customer Experience sales cycle tends to be extremely long, lasting several months. As a result, it is too early to tabulate the campaign’s impact on sales and sales leads. However, anecdotal evidence, including requests for the authors to speak at industry conferences and favorable inquiries about the companies services, suggest the campaign has already established the authors as thought leaders in their field and will yield sales leads and prospects.