The tool most widely used by public relations professionals is publicity. Until recently, however, the advantages of word-of-mouth (WOM) publicity remained largely unexplored by public relations professionals.
WOM is one of the most inexpensive and effective methods for promoting business. WOM marketing is more than the mere creation of verbal propaganda; it also makes public relations and marketing easier. WOM publicity incites people to share details, experiences, and information about their personal lives, which a shrewd public relations professional can exploit in order to reach target audiences more effectively.
The Positive and Negative Effects of WOM
WOM draws public attention, whether through blogs, instant messaging, or media coverage. WOM publicity, however, can have both positive and negative effects. While good WOM represents the opinions of satisfied customers, WOM can also be used as a weapon by dissatisfied customers (or competitors) eager to destroy a brand’s image.
It is, therefore, prudent to monitor WOM closely to prevent injury to a company’s brand name. PR professionals use publicity to shape internal and external opinions of organizations. They also work to garner support from important members of the public whose WOM has the potential to create more hype than an advertisement.
What Can WOM Do?
In order to ensure that WOM publicity efforts reach their targets, WOM should be tactically aligned with business goals. WOM and publicity are mutually beneficial. While WOM increases public awareness of a company, media publicity speeds up the spread of WOM. People value integrity and trustworthiness. The right WOM can help a company:
- enhance trustworthiness
- build trust
- generate sales leads
- form attitudes
- refine customer service
WOM has the ability to influence public opinion and convince consumers to make decisions about products or services. Media coverage provides publicity through third-party endorsements. If these endorsements are combined with hype created through WOM, the product or service will likely score high in credibility ratings. Surveys have revealed that most people make purchases based on the opinions of others. Take, for example, products like the iPod or Toyota Prius or the services offered by Verizon or Bank of America. In the publicity campaigns for these products and services, ads have taken a backseat to the work of WOM strategies.
Tips for Creating WOM
PR professionals can kick-start their own WOM rather than waiting for the public to do it for them. All they need is a powerful strategy for building widespread enthusiasm. An effective WOM campaign begins with the following:
- creative thinking
- a team of people who will act as generators
- compelling, powerful, and provocative storytelling strategies
- testimonials and endorsements from satisfied customers
- experts willing to give their opinions
- a plan for enhancing relationships with existing customers