So, Jeff from the ICT team has just called you to admit that he promised his contact from the vendor of your new [insert baffling tech term of your choice] that he’d ‘give them a quote’ once the deployment was successful. “Jeff!” you want to screech, “what were you thinking?”
I imagine this happens to in house comms staff in the public sector quite a lot.
On the other side of the PR fence, is the supplier’s agency, who’ve just had this email:
“Great news! We’ve just won a deal at [insert authority, hospital or Trust]. Can you set up a call with Jeff from the ICT team, he’ll give you a quote”.
And more often than not, this is how we first get talking – the in house customer comms professional, and the IT company PR agency bod. We know Jeff needed to check with his PR team before saying yes, and you know it’ll be a matter of time before we get in touch!
When you’re discussing how your endorsement is going to work, there’s loads of opportunity to get more out of it than first appears. A glossy, marketing document shouldn’t be the natural output.
Here’s some things a good supplier PR person should be suggesting:
- Your story as a customer is best told in your words, which are, frankly, much more interesting to the media than pre-written blurb. If you would like stakeholders to see what difference the vendor’s product or service is really making when they read about it, offer to let the journalist or blogger speak directly to pre-chosen users and the project manager, as well as the IT team.
- Encourage the vendor to take original and interesting photographs on site. As you probably know, stock photography in the UK for the public sector is dreadful, and you’ll be drawing very positive attention to your own capabilities if good, maybe even exclusive images are a possibility.
- Consider working with the vendor to put the technology deployment and the success it’s had forward for an industry award. These can be fantastic ways to showcase your organisation’s objectives and successes, and they are a great motivator for the team. The vendor will (normally) pay the admission fee too
- If you have a confident, personable project manager who can spare the time, working with the vendor to create an issues-based roundtable debate where your implementation is a key theme can produce great results. Getting involved with an issue that’s making a difference to your stakeholders, for example, electronic medical records for hospitals, will really boost awareness of the successes you are having, and you’ll be seen as an industry leader
- Set a social media strategy with the third party PR teams from the start, so that you’re happy with what’s being said. If you’re also using the story, you don’t want a tweet slipping out that crushes any further opportunities for conversation
Realistically, for any of the tactics to work, collaboration between vendor and customer is the most important bit. Which is why well-meaning Jeff probably did the right thing in the first place by saying yes, because now you’ve got another opportunity to make your organisation shine, and another PR wingman ‘on the outside’ to help you do it.
Eleanor Willock is a director at Mantis PR the UK’s only specialist communications agency for technology suppliers to the public sector.