Blogs  / September 28, 2015

PR & Customer Success: 2 Sides Of The Same Coin

by Erik Wagner, Head of Growth

In PR, we like to draw comparisons. It helps emphasize a point, enhance a story or create a connection between two seemingly unrelated things.

Along those lines, I thought it would be interesting to make a comparison between PR and one of the fastest growing roles sweeping the SaaS industry: Customer Success.

Whaaaat you may say? What on earth does my client’s PR campaign have in common with Customer Success (CS)? As a PR Engineer at Onclusive, I’m in a funky [unique] position where I wear both PR and CS hats, and it recently occurred to me that despite which hat I may be wearing, I find myself tapping a similar “soft” skill set.

PR-and-customer-successBelow, I’ve outlined 5 skills I’m constantly utilizing as I toggle between PR and Customer Success.The key takeaway: as long as there are people running the planet and business depends on customers to operate, there are core principles that can apply to most, if not all, service-oriented roles.

1. Personalization

In PR, you can’t just have a one-size-fits-all approach to interacting with all of your clients and the same goes for Customer Success. It’s important to get to know your clients personally so you can better understand their business, pain points and goals they’re working towards. Understanding these fundamentals allows you to formulate a more comprehensive PR strategy and intelligently communicate with your client about their company and industry.

The same personalized attention is crucial in Customer Success. You have to put the time in to learn a customer’s business and objectives in order to be able to provide the support they need – regardless of what service or product you’re providing. It’s also important to note that the level of support required and the demands of each customer varies. Some customers simply require more TLC than others.

2. Communication

It is no secret that PR pros live and breathe communication. It powers everything we do for our clients and there is something “so meta” to communicating our communications. We need to be able to effectively convey the work we’re doing, while asking the right questions and staying cool, calm and collected when the inevitable s$*% hits the fan. We dance on a fine line between over communicating, under communicating and communicating just the right amount at just the right frequency.

Communication is just as important when is comes to CS. One of the major goals of Customer Success is to minimize the input of time/energy/work by the customer while maximizing the output and value they receive from the product or service. A customer’s time is precious so you want to take full advantage whenever you have it and use it both efficiently and effectively.

3. Relationships

Since relations puts the “R” in PR, the relationships you have with your clients, not to mention with the media, creates the foundation of PR’s work. From knowing the date of a product launch to remembering their favorite bottle of wine, developing a rapport with you clients is a crucial to being successful.

Nurturing customer relationships is just as integral on the CS side. One of the most important skills Customer Success Managers need to have is the ability to understand their customers. Reading between the lines of a customer’s response, providing support when they ask for it (or even when they don’t know they need it) and being mindful of important company milestones all contribute to fostering strong customer relationships.

Paul Caine, Global Chief Revenue and Client Partnerships Officer at Bloomberg Media recently said that “Data doesn’t drive decisions, people do.”  Which leads us to the next skill…

4. Retention

First you have to win the business, but then more importantly you have to keep it. Retaining a customer is a lot easier said than done, and just because you sip cocktails at happy hour with a customer doesn’t means they see the value in your platform. And even if your client was impressed by your PR strategy doesn’t guarantee they’re going to hire you for their next campaign.

Customer retention is always a work in progress. It’s making sure the wheels keep turning and the customer is in a sweet spot between being “stuck” to the product or service and continuing to see return of their investment plus a future benefit. Since there is no magic equation that guarantees customer satisfaction, the notion of retention keeps both PR pros and CSMs constantly on our toes.

5. Measurement

And lastly, like most of the data driven world we live in today, we have to let the numbers speak for themselves. You can be proud of your CS team’s low churn percentage and PR pros should tout that their stellar pitches landed stories in 10 top tier outlets. However, in both Customer Success and PR there will always be room for qualitative measurement because of the human factor. You can’t always stamp a rating on a brainstorming session, nor tack on a Net Promoter Score (NPS) score to an appreciative customer email, and that’s ok. With the increasing amount of data available to help power CS efforts and the sophistication of PR analytics tools being able to more accurately capture the ROI of PR, we have more data available than ever, and this fact will help us all increase both success and performance.

We’ll leave you with one final comparison. What else do these 5 fundamentals have in common besides being crucial to both PR and CS? They all focus on the same top priority: The customer.