There's a lot of talk about the power of the media given the rise of social networking, online communities, and bloggers. I've often said that one of the most powerful forms of PR for clients is "getting third-party validation to get third-party validation" and even today this still holds true. If you can get customers (or analysts, academicians, or other independent folks)--who have no allegiance to your company--to comment about your company's product, you have a key asset in helping you reach new prospective buyers.
The best salesperson for your company and its offerings is your customer. Certainly, a story with no third-party customer tie-in by a press member is quite valuable, but a story by a reporter that ties in the customer who can share stories about the positive experience they've had with your product or service, strengthens the impact of the content and adds linkage to potential buyers. And, with the advent of social media and dialogue, story telling is even more essential these days.
Let's take a closer look. There's been a lot of communication research done about campfire dialogue and story swapping. For example, research shows that when the campfire becomes more lively and dynamic with active participants, the content discussed is more memorable to participants. When you sat around the campfire and told a story about yourself...some listened, some remembered. When your friend told a story about you, everybody listened, everybody remembered. And when all campfire players jumped into the dialogue, the conversation really took off.
Having said all that about customers and story telling, let's take this a step further. Let's now build in "two-way dialogue" into the content. For example, rather than having a journalist simply report about your product with the customer tie-in, let's work with the editor to integrate an actual product demo into the story so that readers can "test drive" the product and provide comments and feedback as part of the story. This interpretative learning is essential, as people want to interact and engage, rather than be spoken to in a "one-way dialogue" mode.
With the customer involved and the reader engaged; the campfire is now roaring and product sales are about to heat up.