There are many Heads of Public Relations, Communications, Marketing, or Advertising yet have you ever met a ‘Head of Word-of-Mouth’?
Why? Because most believe word-of-mouth (w-o-m) is something that cannot be directly managed, phenomena out of control, beyond their reach.
w-o-m should be recognised as a marketing communications discipline, under the aegis of public relations, which can be planned, managed and integrated into a wider communications strategy.
Creating messages which are w-o-m friendly and managing the w-o-m dimension are among the key characteristics of the outstanding public relations communicator.
What is w-o-m?
w-o-m is essentially about circulating messages and memes relevant to your future success which enable other people to communicate about you.
w-o-m can be defined as communication whose content and source is perceived as independent. It is this independence of w-o-m, with its unique credibility, along with its meme-like ability to replicate and become self-sustaining, which gives w-o-m so much power.
Communicators need to adopt what can be called ‘3D Thinking’; most focus their communications efforts in just two dimensions – on their outputs in broadcasting a message and secondly achieving outcomes from reaching target audiences.
The third dimension focuses on the next stage in the communications process – outgrowths, particularly the subsequent relaying, or out-casting of w-o-m messages, or memes, to further audiences, where the message develops its own dynamic beyond the sender and the recipient
1. People rate w-o-m as their most potent source of new business or reliable information. You know the scene: You are making a choice or dealing with an unfamiliar problem. You are not sure what to do. It could be a major purchase, or even just deciding what film to see. You ask a friend, or the friend tells you: “It’s supposed to be good.” A recommendation that probably determines your decision.
2. Lack of a direct, positive experience is usually the single greatest factor holding back any decision from greater and faster acceptance. Learning the lessons of emergence theory, the smaller the step you have to take in a decision the more likely you will take it.
3. w-o-m is custom tailored to the audience. You do not get bombarded with recommendations from a trusted source because people do not recommend things unless they think you are potentially interested.
4. You pay more attention to the w-o-m recommendation because it is perceived to be more relevant, and more complete, than any other form of communication.
5. w-o-m is also self-generating. The replicating nature of memes provides a self-propelling message – you hear something which you then tell to someone who in turn tells someone else; the population of theUKcan be reached by 10 people telling 10 people and just repeating this process six times.
6. The source of the w-o-m is crucial. Initial stages of w-o-m are sustained by people who are influencers able to impart their qualified information to wider groups.
7. Often w-o-m can be negative. Positive experiences are expected, and soon forgotten, whereas negative situations gets people frustrated and angry, consequently energizing their output of negative w-o-m. In managing negative w-o-m you can harness this reality in a constructive way.
8. Providing some negatives in your communications – to feed into your wom – can be more reassuring than just simply including positives. The negatives can add credibility to your message providing an ‘inoculation effect’
How can you manage w-o-m?
Do you or your organisation have one distinguishing feature that potential targets are aware of?
Do you get your target audiences thinking about themselves in a way makes it impossible not to call you? All these are potentially manageable elements.
Like any communications strategy you need to identify where you are at present. Auditing your w-o-m is based on listening to your networks, knowing what your audiences are saying and using all possible approaches to hear what ‘buzz’ there is about you.
In examining your w-o-m activities you need to consider what are you doing to support your unprompted positive w-o-m advocates to help them spread your word, while any negative w-o-m should be neutralised or transformed.
Also, what w-o-m are you using to not only to help your targets adopt your message but also speed-up their decision-making?
In a tough competitive market communicators need to work smarter, and make their messages sweat harder. Managing word of mouth is not just desirable but a fundamental. Pass it on.
These tips are just a few of the 101 different tips an ideas being offered to public relations and marketing professionals in the first ‘Word of Mouth and Viral Marketing course being run by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
The half day training course takes place in Londonon the afternoon of Friday November 11th. Places are limited, to book your place visit www.cipr.co.uk or ring 0207 631 6900.
The course has been devised and will be delivered by Andy GreenFCIPR. His book ‘Effective Personal Communication Sills for PR’, part of the Institute’s PR in Practice series, was one of the first PR texts to cover word of mouth and memes.
Sharing examples from the work of Edward Bernays to the latest cutting edge campaigns, you will go away telling your friends how you can manage your word-of-mouth, how to create positive messages about you, what you do and what you stand for.