Monday, November 28, 2005

Is evangelism the new PR?

Thanks to Prof. Steve Greene for sending me a link to "Spreading the Word," an article on corporate evangelism in the current issue of U.S. News online. They're talking about a new approach to marketing by establishing personal relationships with customers...especially those early adopters who influence others. Evangelism isn't your old-fashioned, one-way, top-down marketing. According to the article:
"It's not about creating a better megaphone," says Bill Hamilton, CEO of TechSmith, a software developer with 100 employees in Okemos, Mich. "To be successful, companies need better conversations with their customers."
The article notes that some companies, like Vespa and Microsoft (see my earlier post on Robert Scoble), are already using bloggers as company evangelists. They see evangelism as "a way of actively creating word-of-mouth advertising or marketing, turning your passionate, influential customers into a volunteer sales force."

Asked what advice he would give to a company like Wal-Mart that has a PR problem, Consultant Ben McConnell, coauthor of Creating Customer Evangelists, offered the following advice:
  • Find customer evangelists through online searches and store surveys.
  • Start blogs and podcasts to humanize the people behind the company's too-opaque walls.
  • Talk openly and frankly about controversial issues like employee health benefits, the company's impact on state Medicare programs, outsourcing, and the hiring of illegal immigrants.
He offered one caveat: PR spinmeisters should be forbidden from being involved.

However, I think that's bogus. As an old PR dog who's learning some new tricks, I don't see why PR folks can't make good evangelists (as long as you remember that there's a difference between PR and "spinning"). Most PR practioners are good at establishing and maintaining relationships, and that's really what we're talking about here.

So, what do you think?

1 comment:

Jackie Huba said...

Hi Cynthia,
I don't think Ben meant that all PR folks should be excluded from the evangelism approach.

Just the ones that might think blogs are bad because they can't be controlled ;)