Building Customer Advocacy: How to Get Testimonials from Scientists

I’ve been eating Cheerios for years, and I’m still waiting for General Mills to call me.

“Why, yes!” I would say, delighted, “I’d love to be in a commercial for you. I’m so glad you finally noticed me.”

But of course researchers don’t always react the same way when you invite them to share their stories as part of a PR campaign. However sincere and noble our causes, we recognize that gathering testimonials from scientists and institutions exposes them to potential risks, including:

A perception among peers that their work is biased
Misconstrued research, as they often have little control over the PR message
Extra work with no tangible benefit

In truth, our intent is exactly the opposite, so what’s the best way to ask for testimonials from scientists? Our first job as communications professionals is to convey our objectives before, during and after working with scientific experts:

Thought leadership among peers.Leadership does not exist in a vacuum, so talk with your experts about the audience you want to influence. Afterwards, share whether you were successful in reaching that audience and, if possible, how the message was received. Transparency is a cornerstone of good science and will be appreciated among scientists.

Accurately amplified research. Involve a scientist in telling his or her own story. Put them in the spotlight before a product or supplier. Nuances are key to many scientific achievements, and these will only surface when you ask those who understand them best. Also recognize that scientists take authorship and credit very seriously, ergo many will understandably resist putting their names on something you wrote for them. Support them with media training and in seeking corrections from media when appropriate.

Future partnerships and funding. You and your customer advocate share a common goal, and by raising their profile you create opportunities to advance that goal. Part of customer advocacy is keeping in touch with your advocates to learn how their story develops. Seek opportunities to reiterate your shared message by repurposing their story and sharing new achievements. Although these developments may be out of your control, realize you are now their advocate, too, and that your sincere efforts (including a sincere thank-you for their help) can forge a strong relationship.

Customer advocacy is tremendously valuable in a PR campaign, and securing these relationships with scientists is a craft of its own. Do you need help gathering testimonials, reaching scientists to share your message, or finding the new face of Honey Nut Cheerios? Let us know!