08 Feb 2017

The other day I saw something transpire at the office that will stay with me for a long time…

In our building’s beautiful atrium, there is a veritable jungle of greenery and flowers, and even a little fish-filled stream that runs through it.  At the far end of the water, there stands a little coffee kiosk manned by one person who has a view of the entire atrium and front doors.  As I was walking past the front doors, a vision-impaired man with a cane walked in. No sooner had he taken 3 steps into the atrium when the man behind the kiosk counter shouted, “How are you, Frank?!” and literally jumped over the stream and over the atrium flora to offer Frank his arm and guide him over to the kiosk for a cup of coffee.  This made an impression on me and got me thinking…

We should all be jumping over the river and through the woods for our customers.  When it comes to getting visibility in the press, this is a great metaphor for the approach we take when working with our media customers: journalists, editors, bloggers, editorial directors, columnists, reporters and producers. After all, it’s not just about what the media can do for you, but also what you can do for the media relationships you have and are trying to build.  Selling coffee or getting media coverage—it’s all about personal relationships.

Thinking of media contacts as customers helps remind us that reporters are human, just like us.  They don’t want people to always take from them, but to give to them as well, just like us. They are interested in the interesting, just like us. When approaching the media with a story idea, we make sure it’s interesting to us first, and then give them the gift of relevant background information we would want to have provided to us if we were writing the story.  We offer our arm and guide them to all the pieces they need to create a solid article.

Would the coffee kiosk man have offered his arm to just any customer?  Probably not. He gave one customer what he needed in particular and, presumably, he gives other customers what they need in particular.  Likewise, we send pitches and news stories that are personalized to a particular media contact’s beat. We give each reporter what they need—and not what they don’t. Not only is it annoying to a reporter to get what they don’t need, but it’s damaging to the trust you absolutely must build with them.  You can’t risk throwing away a great media experience with a reporter you work with on one article by sending them poor-quality or irrelevant news the next time you contact them. Being consistent in the quality of stories sent to them is as important as the quality itself.  It’s what allows the media to have an automatic expectation that they will get high value from you—and it is what gets your emails to them get read above the others.

Here at Sterling, we have a code of behavior called “The Sterling Standards” that we all wrote together. Nearly all the concepts in the document relate to superior customer service; after all, it is what differentiates us from the competition.  We regularly jump sky high for our customers, both those we are representing and those who work in the media. It is what has made us successful and it’s what we can do to help your company be successful too.