Why Publicity Stunts Aren’t Always Great for Customer Experience


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Businesses want to publish their services. They do this via advertising, a traditionally expensive medium no matter which channel you use. But a new channel is emerging that is more affordable: social media influencers. Marketers realize this and have begun to harvest the potential of these organic influential connections. But does this set an expectation that can’t be reached? Is this this good for your customer experience?

Great Publicity Stunts Set Expectations and Therefore Do Not Make Good Customer Experiences

There is a big difference between a good publicity stunt and a good customer experience. I wrote a blog a while ago, regarding a guy with a high level of social media followers and his tweeting about a steak that explains what I mean by this.

The guy was Peter Shankman, well known public relations expert and Principal at Shankman|Honig and founder and CEO of the Geek Factory, Inc. In addition, Shankman has published numerous books and has many big name clients. He is also frequently featured on the news networks as a marketing pundit. His level of influence is substantial.

But most notably for the purpose of my post here, in 2011 he authored on of the top ten tweets of the year by Twitter.  The tweet was:

“Hey @Mortons—can you meet me at Newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. : )”

Morton’s did meet him with one, by the way. And Shankman gave them lots of love for the “experience” he had, also known as a publicity stunt. The reason this is a publicity stunt and not an experience is because you and I both know that if you or I tweeted this, there wouldn’t be anybody at the airport arrivals area with a steak, because we aren’t as influential as Shankman.

An extension of concept of offering people with a high social influencer a discount on their vacations as outlined in this article like Hotelied does . But I wonder is this morally correct?

I assume that if this social influencer goes on this trip they will receive ‘special’ service, which they will then tweet about to their followers. This sets the expectation that everyone will get the same special service.

But the truth is everyone doesn’t get the same excellent experience as these special customers do. When the special customers write/tweet/blog about their experience, the expectations of the regular customers about the experience they will have rise as well. When these regular customers don’t get the same thing as teh social media influencer does, however, it’s disappointing and to be honest, it stings a little.

 Special Service Is Not the Real Customer Experience

So what about when the experience isn’t excellent? It makes sense that a person with a high number of followers that complains will have a bigger impact than someone that doesn’t. Therefore should they be treated differently? On the one hand, the answer would seem to be obviously yes. But again, the Customer Experience expert in me says that there is an argument that they should not.

When you treat a person differently than you usually would just because they have a large number of followers, you are doing yourself a disservice in the long run. Sure the short-term effects are that when they sing your praises afterward you look great in the public eye. But when these followers don’t get the same treatment, their disappointment is likely to be exacerbated by their higher expectations. While the backlash will obviously be on a smaller scale, it will add up over time and can have dire consequences for the brand.

I am no celebrity and I do not have a following like the PR expert Shankman does. However, I do have a certain level of influence. I have 100,000 followers on LinkedIn and the power of the pen. When complaining about a poor service in my life, I never tell the organization that I am a Customer Experience expert because I don’t think I should use my status or power to get what I want.

What I will do is write about good or bad experiences after and take the learning out of this. Since they don’t know who I am and that I have a certain amount of reach, the stories I tell are likely to be a real representation of their customer experience.

There is No Short Cut for a Good Customer Experience

But am I worried about this too much? Companies have been favoring people who have influencers for years, however. Phone companies ensure that politicians get good service. CEOs of companies get good service when they use a product or service personally so they will influence the buying decisions at work. And of course, there are all the elaborate gifts given to celebrities at the Oscars, including this year’s that was valued at $55,000! This is all done to help promote and encourage the association of the product with the celebrities, influencers and those in the public eye.

In some ways, the idea that more “regular people” with lots of social media influence will have access to these kinds of perks is a nice one. Who doesn’t want to get some really cool gadget for free with the hopes that you will promote it within your sphere of influence? Who doesn’t like to get upgraded to business or first class on the 4-hour flight to the other coast in hopes that he or she will continue to choose that airline for business travel? It’s a real delight to benefit from this type of business practice from time to time.

My view is that whilst this is not a great idea for organizations to rely on this kind of advertising, it will happen anyway and it will happen more and more. It will be left to the morals of the individuals to decide if they use it as a chance to give an honest portrayal of the experience they benefit from to their followers. And also a big gamble by the organization that they can live up to the expectations that portrayal will create to the public at large, whose influence may not be as wide individually but certainly has strength in numbers.

There simply is no shortcut for a good Customer Experience and this starts by setting the right expectation.

What are your views is offering a discount to people with a high social influencer on social media a good idea or bad? I would be very interested to hear your comments below.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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