Startup Guide: How To Create a Customer PR Program

By Matter

The next time you pick up a copy of STORES or Entrepreneur Magazine, notice how many stories follow a case study format. A major retailer wants to improve customer experience and invests in a chatbot to help shoppers navigate their store. A small business wants to simplify transactions at the point of sale and invests in a tablet point-of-sale application for checkout.

Joint PR projects, like case studies, are a great way to get press as a startup, because they demonstrate market demand for your product or service. Think about it. What’s more powerful: talking about how awesome you are, or having a customer do it for you?

Better yet, joint PR projects benefit startups and their customers. Both win recognition for their technology and initiatives, promote their vision for the industry, improve the visibility of their executives, and increase their brand awareness. We’ve even seen these interactions lead to better customer retention, and more cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

What makes a good PR candidate? What are the options for joint PR? And how do you “make the ask” to get customers involved? Here’s your crash course.


What Makes a Good PR candidate?

In a perfect world, a startup could involve all of its customers in PR. But in reality, corporate policy and competitive issues often determine which customers are a fit – and which won’t touch PR with a 10-foot pole.

First, look for these warning signs:

  • A corporate policy that prohibits mention of technology partners
  • Required review of copy before publication, which journalists typically cannot guarantee
  • Competitive issues that limit the topics of discussion
  • A technical problem with your product or service (like an open support ticket)
  • A signed non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with your company

Then, look for the signs of a great PR candidate:

  • A happy customer
  • A champion who will help you secure internal approvals
  • Tangible, quantitative results from using your product or service
  • Permission to speak publicly about your partnership


What are the Options?

Once you have a list of candidates, it’s time to consider their options. Case studies are great, but they’re just one of many ways to involve customers in PR. The key is presenting options for every comfort level: from a simple logo on your website, to a joint speaking engagement at your industry’s largest tradeshow.

Here are some of the options we present to clients when designing a customer program:

  • Logo on the website
  • Testimonial or case study on the website
  • Joint press release
  • Joint interview with the press
  • Joint speaking engagement or award

You know your customer’s time is valuable, so when presenting these options, be clear about the process, time and effort involved. A testimonial may require a brief call and 20-30 minutes to review or approve a quote, while a press interview may require a longer prep call and 30-40 minutes with a reporter.

How Do You “Make the Ask”?

This is the number one question we get from clients implementing a customer program, and rightfully so. Sales and customer success teams are the gatekeepers. If they don’t feel supported in introducing PR to their customers, there is no customer program.

To start, ask yourself, “what’s in it for the customer?” Free publicity is an easy sell for smaller customers and emerging brands, but not so much for Fortune 500 customers.

For your larger customers, joint PR can be an opportunity to establish themselves as thought leaders in a specific industry. Do they want to be known for embracing digital transformation? Are they eager to show off a new research facility where your technology is being used?

Incentives are also helpful in securing customer participation in PR. Consider offering a product or service discount, setting up an awards program for customers or even submitting customers for external awards, recognizing their progressive thinking.

Once you’ve identified the benefit, you can “make the ask” in several ways:

  • Welcome letter. Create a letter welcoming new customers. Use this letter to introduce the customer program and build their interest in participating in the future.
  • Email template. Create email templates for sales and customer success teams. Use these templates to introduce the customer program or specific opportunities, like a video testimonial or speaking engagement.
  • Case study library. Collect customer case studies or testimonials on your website. Use this library to reassure customers who need an example before committing.
  • Email intro. To your PR team. We’ll take it from there.


Want to learn more about customer programs? You know where to find us.