Public Relations Tactics

5 Thoughts on Brand Communications From Jay Baer

September 5, 2017

“I’m going to talk about re-imagining the role of the PR professional in helping companies and organizations deliver that knockout customer experience,” said Jay Baer, discussing his Oct. 10 keynote at the PRSA 2017 International Conference.

Baer, a digital marketing expert and author of the book “Turn Your Customers Into Volunteer Marketers,” talked about a variety of topics including social media influencers, podcasting and why the Cheesecake Factory’s brand is so strong.

On word-of-mouth marketing in the digital age:

Looking back thousands of years, word-of-mouth has always been important. One caveman telling another caveman that this is the cave to go to for fresh berries is a business maxim.
Now, in an age where social media is essentially being used by almost everybody with internet connections, each customer has the opportunity to create more customers. The best customers you could ever get are customers that you get essentially for free.

On the role of public relations in customer experience:

Public relations has been involved in customer experience for a long time, but mostly from a negative perspective — specifically, the field of crisis management. But public relations also has an important role to play in the discovery, creation and optimization of positive elements of the customer experience that would make word-of-mouth involuntary. The best companies compel word-of-mouth. And they do it by baking it into their operations.

[Look at] Cheesecake Factory. The menu is about 5,900 words long, they have 33 kinds of cheesecake and they have enormous portions. Those are three things they have done strategically to make word-of-mouth involuntary. It’s a huge business advantage and something that PR professionals should be involved in.

On cultivating a customer community:

It’s remarkable to me how little time is spent communicating with key customers in a non-sales capacity. [Before] the rise of modern social media, it was: “Let’s create a community of our customers and keep them fired up and motivated, and use social media, discussion boards and forums to do that.” Not as much old-fashioned community building happens anymore, and it’s a real missed opportunity.

On podcasting as an effective communications medium:

One thing I like about podcasting is that it’s the only multitaskable content mechanism. You can listen to a podcast while you commute. You can listen to a podcast while you exercise. You can listen to a podcast while you use your snow blower. And you can’t do that with many other forms of communication. It’s difficult — in fact, illegal — to drive and watch a video. It is unlikely that you are going to run on the treadmill and read blog posts.

Podcasting is particularly useful as target audiences get busier because people can generally incorporate it into their routine — one of the reasons why you’re seeing such a huge increase in podcast consumption in the United States, especially with the rise of smart speakers [like] Amazon’s Alexa and Google Play.

On why employees, not influencers, are your best brand advocates:

Influencer marketing is potentially effective, but the best influencer works happen when you already have a large group of advocates. What I’ll talk about in my presentation is starting from the inside out — the first group you need to get on your side are employees. If your employees aren’t your greatest advocates, then you’ve got a major problem. The influencer is not your problem if your employees aren’t excited about what you’re offering.

Employers short-cut this [lack of excitement] by trying to hitch their rides to social media influencers. And while it can work momentarily, it will have no long-term impact if you don’t have a base of support underneath it. 

Dean Essner

Dean Essner is the editorial assistant for PRSA’s publications. A former resident of Washington, D.C., he holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from the University of Maryland. Email:


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