Deeper Dive Into Changing Customer Experience: 5 Questions with Brian Solis

Experience vs. DesignLate last year, I met author and customer experience sage Brian Solis.  My blog post about my conversation with him, Is Customer Experience the Next Killer App?,was one of the most widely shared, liked and tweeted blogs that I have ever written.  And since then, you can’t swing a dead cat without hearing a marketer chime-in about improving the customer experience, or CX, as we cool people like to call it.  I had a follow-up call with Brian recently as he transferred from car to plane on one of his many worldwide speaking engagements and workshops discussing CX.  Here are five questions and answers with Brian which will assist any business owner or executive who wants to improve the customer experience in their business. 

John P. David: When did you realize that customer experience is the new brand?  Did it hit you in the shower or was it an evolution? 

Brian Solis: I definitely see it as an evolution.  I have tracked and researched customer relationship trends for many years, and when I looked at the iconic brands, I believed that their successes were bigger than the products and bigger than the brands themselves.  Iconic brands like Apple and Disney offer more.  I have been studying the issue for more than seven years and spent the last three years working on the book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design.

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Yes, you can get a book deal

how to protect or destroy your reputation onlineBack in October, I wrote a post about my efforts to write a book, my take on the publishing industry, and my desire to get a book deal.  The reaction was fascinating and in some cases, very emotional.  First, I learned that there’s a tremendous amount of underlying bitterness about the publishing business from unpublished authors.  Second, many folks believe self-publishing is the way to go because traditional publishing is broken, and self-published authors can get a better share of the profits.  And third, many folks believe it’s impossible for an unknown writer to get a deal.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it is possible to get a publishing contract because I did it.  Career Press in New Jersey will publish my book, How to Protect (Or Destroy) Your Reputation Online, and it will be available in bookstores, online, and “wherever fine books are sold” by the end of the year or shortly thereafter.

Here’s how I did it

First, literary agents are the primary gatekeepers for the publishing industry.  So, if you want to get a book deal as a non-fiction author, you first need to find an agent.

How do you get an agent?  I didn’t know any, so I asked a few author friends to make introductions to theirs (an idea from my friend Bruce Turkel).  I also researched and cross-referenced my LinkedIn contacts, looking for agents and any of my contacts who knew agents.  I also joined Publishers Marketplace, a website where literary agents congregate and publicize book deals.  From there, I started targeting agents who I thought might be interested in my book.  I tackled it like a marketing campaign.Read More

Your Challenge: Think Big, Act Bigger

Time to Think Big | David PRIf marketing whiz Jeff Hayzlett ruled the world, one of the first orders of business would be to outlaw the words “I can’t.”

A former chief marketing officer at Kodak, turned consultant and entrepreneur, Hayzlett stands firm that nearly anything can be accomplished in the business world if you put your mind to it.  I interviewed Hayzlett recently and found his take on marketing to be both motivating and thought provoking.

Hayzlett’s book Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless could vie for shelf space somewhere in between self-help and autobiography, but it belongs in the business section.  He offers a glimpse into the blueprint that led him from growing up in South Dakota, to Kodak and to hosting a show on Bloomberg TV, which he then moved to an online platform as the C-Suite Network.  He’s built a little empire and isn’t shy about telling us how he did it – not because he’s bragging, but because he believes the rest of us can do it too.Read More

Five Questions about Newsjacking with David Meerman Scott

NewsjackingA few weeks back, I interviewed David Meerman Scott about his book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, and one area I promised to revisit is known as newsjacking. Scott describes it as the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story to generate media coverage, get sales leads, and grow one’s business.

Following are five key questions and answers about the subject.

John P. David (JPD): Has your definition of newsjacking changed since you first coined/started using the term?

David Meerman Scott (DMS): Yes, the definition has changed. When I first invented newsjacking, I focused on the idea of getting your ideas into news stories. My main consideration was to teach the technique of getting you quoted in the stories being written by mainstream media reporters at newspapers, magazines, and in broadcast stories on radio and television.

But as I’ve spoken with hundreds of people who have successfully implemented my ideas, I’ve realized that many of them were generating sales leads, adding new customers, selling products and services, and growing their business — all from newsjacking!

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Communications Strategy 101: Get your GAME on

Communications Strategy from David PR GroupOne thing that I often hear from executives is that they want to improve their corporate communications, marketing and public relations, but they don’t know where to start. Perhaps the conversation begins with an executive saying they want a presence on social media, or they want to blog, or they just want to “get their name out there.” How do you do it? How do you develop a communications strategy?

The answer: Get your GAME on.

While developing a complete communications strategy takes research and in-depth planning, one can make the first moves fairly easily and can quickly point the ship in the right direction. This process, which can take a few hours for a cursory approach or several weeks for a deep dive, focuses on four areas: Goals, Audiences, Messaging (and tactics) and Evaluation. “GAME,” get it? (Don’t feel the need to be snarky about the “T” in “tactics.” It’s my process, so I’m calling it “GAME.”)Read More

Is Customer Experience the Next Killer App?

design is artEveryone in service businesses talk about it. lists more than 100,000 titles on the topic. Sometimes it seems like it’s a quest that challenges every business owner in America. I’m talking about the concept of “exceptional customer service.” If I had a nickel for every business owner who ever said that they wanted to emulate how Apple engages customers or how Disney treats its guests or how Ritz-Carlton does anything and everything, then I would be able to spend the rest of my days fishing in the Gulf of Mexico with the singular care of bagging a bonefish. We all talk about improving the customer experience, but it remains incredibly elusive as many businesses continue to struggle with maintaining consistent service. Oftentimes, acquisition and retention efforts trump the ability to even consider such a nebulous concept as “customer delight.”

I recently attended a presentation by author Brian Solis, skeptically wondering what mysticism I might get on this topic.  According to Solis, not only are most businesses failing at the customer experience, but they are failing by design. As an analyst and anthropologist, he has researched the problem and offers an interesting and credible perspective. His book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, not only details why Apple and Disney kick ass in the experience department but also explains how the key to their success is understanding their customers on multiple levels. Thankfully, Solis isn’t a consultant trying to push a particular system on customer engagement and whatnot. Instead, he outlines how customer experience is the new differentiator and how every business can make meaningful changes. To date, Apple, Disney and the Ritz are ahead because they have designed their products around the customer experience. But fear not. The rest of us are not yet out of the race; we can all catch up.Read More

PR Problems and Legal Muscle Don’t Always Mix 

tug of war | David PR GroupIt baffles me when companies hire lawyers to manhandle public relations issues.  Don’t get me wrong; I love lawyers — literally. My father and both of my brothers are lawyers, as are several of my dearest friends. I also have represented attorneys for decades in all manners of PR matters. Yet sometimes I just want to give a good shake to attorneys who try to overpower PR problems with legal muscle. Two recent examples come to mind.

First, for-profit Dade Medical College has been embroiled in a PR and legal battle with the Miami Herald for the past two years. The Herald ran a series called “Higher-Ed Hustle” that chronicled how predatory practices, political dealings and low test scores are prevalent among some for-profit colleges. Dade Medical College was a regular target of these articles. (Note: Dade Medical College has no affiliation with the public Miami Dade College.)

Dade Medical College sued the newspaper for defamation, though the lawsuit was later dropped. But wait, there’s more: Last week, as the college shuttered its six campuses, news broke that attorneys for Dade Medical College hired a private investigator last year to tail Herald reporter Michael Vasquez. Lawyer Juan Carlos Antorcha with the law firm Rasco Klock Perez Nieto signed an agreement with the would-be Magnum, P.I., to follow and presumably dig up dirt on Vasquez. The contract, which became public for reasons I will explain in a moment, actually had a hand-written note that said “Target: Michael Vasquez/Herald Reporter.” You can’t make this stuff up.Read More

The Politics of Authentic PR and Communications

Leading presidential candidatesThough I enjoy following politics and have had many lively conversations about the presidential campaign, I have hesitated to write about it given the polarizing nature of such things – and the fact that one person’s non-partisan observation can quickly be perceived by another as a partisan insult.

Yet as a public relations professional, it’s difficult to ignore what Stephen Colbert called “the big orange elephant in the room,” meaning Donald Trump.  He’s turned one side of the political landscape on its head, and while you may think he’s soon to flame out, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that he has brought a level of authenticity to the race that hasn’t been seen before.  Therefore, it’s time for me to weigh in.

Part of a classic strategy to win the White House in recent decades has included the following:Read More

5 Reasons to Start a CEO Blog

5 reasons to Start a CEO BlogPublish or perish!  We hear about it in the context of academia all the time.  In order for would-be professors to be considered for tenured positions, they need to regularly showcase their brilliance through publishing relevant scholarly works.  I would argue that CEOs should follow the same advice though they need not regularly publish doctoral-thesis-worthy communications but rather compelling blog content which can advance their business and personal interests.  Below are five reasons why companies should embrace the CEO blog:

Puts a face to your organization.  A CEO is almost always the best single human asset that a company has, particularly start-ups and smaller companies.  Yet many businesses hide their top asset behind a marketing curtain.  A short website bio, usually without contact information, makes most CEOs appear inaccessible.  If your goal is to be a customer-facing and customer-focused organization, a CEO blog can create a public face for a company.  Showcasing your company’s personality can go a long way to defining your values.Read More

Can Your Reputation Withstand Increased Surveillance?

Vatican_Pope_06523CCTV_CamerasSitting in a restaurant with a friend recently, I asked a simple question: How many cameras are in this place? He looked up and immediately pointed out several hemispherical domes in the ceiling, scattered around the restaurant. He identified the surveillance cameras and confidently guessed “about 10” — but he had fallen right into my trap. What about the cell phone cameras, I asked? He frowned as we upped the count to likely north of 50, when considering the camera-phone-bearing customers and employees. At that moment, if a customer were to try to sneak off with a pastry, steal someone’s wallet or go on an epic rant about the price of an extra scoop of guacamole, there were dozens of people at the ready to document it. Any misstep could turn into an online reputation issue within moments. And this is true not just at a Panera Bread in Florida but nearly every restaurant and retail store in the United States. Whether we like it or not, we are being watched.

200 Million Camera Phones
According to analysts, there will be more than 200 million camera phones in the United States by 2017. (The U.S. population is around 320 million, by the way.) We have about 50 million surveillance cameras in America, and that number is likely growing at a rapid clip as the prices for such devices fall, and they become easy to monitor with web-based technology.Read More