By Lisa Hester, Senior Account Manager

(This is part one of a two-part blog post. The second post will run the week of April 2.)

Word of mouth is, pardon the pun, something everyone’s talking about. We know what it is. It’s the sharing of a message – whether it be about a product, activity, candidate, organization, opinion, or other “news” – from person to person. Online, yes, but often face-to-face, as well. When you think about it, word of mouth is really much like PR itself in that it is “earned” conversation.

According to a recent Impact survey, about 62 percent of consumers search online for reviews and information before purchasing a product, while a full 90 percent believe brand recommendations from friends.

But how do you harness word of mouth for your client?

The basis of word of mouth communication is simple, it’s trust. People trust their family, friends, neighbors, co-workers who tell them the truth about a product, activity, idea, etc. And because like-minds generally “hang out” together, the receiver of the information is more likely to tell another friend who likely is interested in the same thing. In and of itself, word of mouth is targeting at its best since the person who tells a second person the information is likely doing so knowing that second person also is interested.

Give theto table

It’s a concept Jonah Berger explains in detail in his book, “Contageous.”

One sure-fire way to become a part of the conversation is to give people something to talk about. In Berger’s example, he showed a video of a blender that actually demolishes a smartphone…to bits. I guarantee people were talking about that blender.

Demonstrate in a strong, even exaggerated, way that relates to others what exactly your product or service does. But don’t go beyond the bounds of truth to make a point. Credibility will be instantly lost.

Then, give avenues for your audience to communicate with you. Reviews, chats, customer service lines, good, solid two-way communication. You’ll find that people will share with their friends exactly what they tell you. And that’s invaluable intel for us in PR to have.

A key element is to identify the “talkers.” Talkers are those who feel compelled to tell their family, friends, neighbors, etc., about their experiences. They’re the ones we know who set news ablaze like “wildflre.” Get a few talkers to engage with your product, service, activity, and gently stoke the flames to keep it going. A good way to start this momentum is to have an event for the “talkers” you’ve identified. You know, an event they can really talk about.

But before building any fires or crushing a smartphone, take the time to fully identify the powers of word of mouth and to integrate related tactics into your overall integrated communications plan to gain the greatest benefit from this powerful tool.