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The Extra Mile PR Strategy: Wow Your Customers

Do things that don't scale (and hug your haters).

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

The extra mile PR strategy is simple yet powerful.

Every once in a while, an organ­isa­tion goes the extra mile to keep its cus­tom­ers happy. And every time, the res­ult­ing good­will mani­fests as good PR. 

Going the extra mile can be a long-term PR strategy — if you can fig­ure out how to do nice things that don’t scale.

Here we go:

Do Things That Don’t Scale”

In his art­icle “Do Things That Don’t Scale” from July 2013, Paul Graham emphas­ises the import­ance of doing unscal­able tasks to grow star­tups. Contrary to pop­u­lar belief, star­tups don’t simply take off or flop; founders must act­ively push them to suc­ceed. 1Do Things that Don’t Scale. (n.d.). Do Things That Don’t Scale. http://​paul​gra​ham​.com/​d​s​.​h​tml

Graham high­lights the neces­sity of recruit­ing users manu­ally in the early stages, as wait­ing for users to come is not a viable strategy. He cites Stripe’s aggress­ive user acquis­i­tion as an example of effect­ive manu­al recruitment.

Graham iden­ti­fies two main reas­ons why founders res­ist manu­ally recruit­ing users: a mix of shy­ness and lazi­ness and the belief that small ini­tial num­bers can­not lead to sig­ni­fic­ant growth. He argues that founders should not under­es­tim­ate the power of com­pound growth and should meas­ure their star­tup’s pro­gress through weekly growth rates.

  • Even the smal­lest num­bers will explode your growth via the “mir­acle” of compounding.

As an example of suc­cess­ful manu­al user recruit­ment, Graham cites Airbnb, who took “hero­ic meas­ures” in their early days, going door-to-door to acquire new users and help exist­ing ones improve their list­ings. Although growth even­tu­ally slows down, star­tups can trans­ition from manu­al to less manu­al meth­ods once they gain trac­tion in the market.

Examples of Going “The Extra Mile”

If doing things that don’t scale is a good strategy for a star­tup, what about PR?

Here are a few well-known examples:

  • Ritz-Carlton. A fam­ily stay­ing at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida, exper­i­enced the hotel’s cus­tom­er ser­vice when their son’s beloved stuffed gir­affe, Joshie, was acci­dent­ally left behind. To com­fort the child, the fath­er told a white lie, say­ing Joshie was tak­ing an exten­ded vaca­tion at the resort. When the Ritz-Carlton found Joshie in the laun­dry and con­tac­ted the fath­er, he shared his story and asked if they could take a photo of Joshie by the pool. The hotel’s Loss Prevention Team went above and bey­ond, send­ing the fam­ily a pack­age con­tain­ing not only the stuffed gir­affe but also a bind­er doc­u­ment­ing Joshie’s “exten­ded vaca­tion” with pho­tos of him at the spa, mak­ing friends with oth­er crit­ters and even driv­ing a golf cart on the beach. They also issued Joshie a Ritz-Carlton ID badge and made him an hon­or­ary mem­ber of the Loss Prevention Team. 2Hurn, C. (2012, May 17). Stuffed gir­affe shows what cus­tom­er ser­vice is all about. HuffPost. https://​www​.huff​post​.com/​e​n​t​r​y​/​s​t​u​f​f​e​d​-​g​i​r​a​f​f​e​-​s​h​o​w​s​-​w​h​a​_​b​_​1​5​2​4​038
  • Nordstrom. In 1975, a cus­tom­er returned a set of tires to Nordstrom, even though the store had nev­er sold tires before. The store refun­ded the cus­tom­er­’s money without hes­it­a­tion, even though the tires wer­en’t pur­chased from Nordstrom. 3Nordstrom, Inc. (2021, September 8). The Nordy Pod: The truth about Nordstrom’s legendary tire story. Nordstrom Press Room. … Continue read­ing
  • Zappos. Zappos, an online shoe and cloth­ing retail­er, is fam­ous for its cus­tom­er ser­vice. They offer free ship­ping and returns, a 365-day return policy, and a 247 cus­tom­er ser­vice line. In one case, a Zappos cus­tom­er called to return a pair of shoes because her moth­er had passed away and would­n’t need them any­more. The Zappos cus­tom­er ser­vice rep­res­ent­at­ive sent the cus­tom­er flowers and a con­dol­ence card. 
  • Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines is known for its friendly and fun-lov­ing flight attend­ants. In one example, a flight attend­ant learned that a pas­sen­ger was cel­eb­rat­ing her 104th birth­day on board the flight. The flight attend­ant led the oth­er pas­sen­gers in singing “Happy Birthday” to the pas­sen­ger and presen­ted her with a bou­quet. 4Ormont Blumberg, P. (2021, August 11). Southwest Airlines employ­ees cel­eb­rate pas­sen­ger­’s 104th birth­day. Fox News. … Continue read­ing
  • Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is a gro­cery store chain. The com­pany also offers a no-ques­tions-asked return policy, even if the product has been opened and par­tially used. In one example, a cus­tom­er returned an empty bag of frozen peas because they had been used to ease a bruise on her son’s knee. The store refun­ded the cus­tom­er­’s money and offered to replace the peas with a new bag. 
  • Morton’s Steakhouse. In 2011, a Twitter user jok­ingly tweeted to Morton’s Steakhouse ask­ing if they could meet him at the air­port with a steak when he landed. To the user­’s sur­prise, Morton’s Steakhouse sent a tuxedoed serv­er to the air­port with a full meal, includ­ing a 24 oz. Porterhouse steak, shrimp, pota­toes, bread, and sil­ver­ware. 5Chan, C. (2011, August 19). After tweet­ing about it, Morton’s Steakhouse met a man with a steak at the air­port. Gizmodo. … Continue read­ing
  • Patagonia. Patagonia is an out­door cloth­ing and gear com­pany known for its com­mit­ment to CSR. In addi­tion to pro­du­cing high-qual­ity products, the com­pany also offers free repairs for any Patagonia item, regard­less of how old it is. This helps cus­tom­ers save money and encour­ages them to keep using and repair­ing their Patagonia items rather than buy­ing new ones.
  • The Container Store. The Container Store is a retail store that spe­cial­ises in stor­age and organ­isa­tion products. The com­pany is known for its excep­tion­al cus­tom­er ser­vice, includ­ing a policy of allow­ing cus­tom­ers to return any item at any time for any reas­on. This policy encour­ages cus­tom­ers to try products without fear of com­mit­ment and builds trust with the brand.
  • Warby Parker. Warby Parker is an eye­wear com­pany that offers afford­able, high-qual­ity glasses and sunglasses. The com­pany is known for its at-home try-on pro­gram, which allows cus­tom­ers to select five frames to try on at home for free before pur­chas­ing. This helps cus­tom­ers find the right style and fit, mak­ing pur­chas­ing more con­veni­ent and less stressful.

Zombie Loyalists” by Peter Shankman

In “Zombie Loyalists,” Peter Shankman argues that the key to build­ing a suc­cess­ful busi­ness is to cre­ate a legion of loy­al cus­tom­ers who are so pas­sion­ate about your brand that they act as “zom­bie” advoc­ates, spread­ing the word about your busi­ness to their friends, fam­ily, and social networks. 

Despite chal­lenges and com­pet­i­tion, these loy­al cus­tom­ers can help your busi­ness grow and thrive.

To cre­ate these “zom­bie loy­al­ists,” Shankman recom­mends focus­ing on excep­tion­al cus­tom­er ser­vice, going above and bey­ond to ensure every cus­tom­er has a pos­it­ive exper­i­ence with your brand. He provides real-world examples of com­pan­ies that have suc­ceeded through excep­tion­al cus­tom­er ser­vices, such as Zappos, Amazon, and Ritz-Carlton.

In addi­tion to provid­ing strategies for build­ing “zom­bie loy­al­ists,” Shankman also offers advice for enga­ging with cus­tom­ers on social media, hand­ling neg­at­ive feed­back and cri­ti­cism, and cre­at­ing a cus­tom­er ser­vice cul­ture with­in your organisation. 

Overall, “Zombie Loyalists” is a prac­tic­al guide to build­ing a busi­ness that thrives on the loy­alty and pas­sion of its customers.

Hug Your Haters” by Jay Baer

In “Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers,” Jay Baer provides a com­pre­hens­ive guide on how busi­nesses can turn neg­at­ive feed­back into an oppor­tun­ity for growth and improvement. 

Baer argues that com­pan­ies should act­ively engage with them instead of ignor­ing or dis­miss­ing unhappy cus­tom­ers, address­ing their con­cerns and learn­ing from their feed­back. By embra­cing com­plaints and “hug­ging” their crit­ics, busi­nesses can strengthen their rela­tion­ships with cus­tom­ers and gain valu­able insights that can drive pos­it­ive change with­in the organisation.

Baer offers prac­tic­al strategies for enga­ging dis­sat­is­fied cus­tom­ers across vari­ous chan­nels, includ­ing social media, review web­sites, and cus­tom­er sup­port inter­ac­tions. He emphas­ises the import­ance of timely, empath­et­ic, and per­son­al­ised responses, under­scor­ing these factors’ role in dif­fus­ing neg­at­ive situ­ations and win­ning back cus­tom­er trust. 

Drawing on real-world examples, Baer demon­strates how busi­nesses that adopt a cus­tom­er-cent­ric approach to hand­ling com­plaints can enhance their repu­ta­tion, improve cus­tom­er loy­alty, and ulti­mately drive long-term success.

The Extra Mile” PR Ideas

Going the extra mile and for­ging strong cus­tom­er con­nec­tions are essen­tial in today’s com­pet­it­ive busi­ness land­scape. Companies must go above and bey­ond to achieve this, offer­ing excep­tion­al ser­vices and exper­i­ences that spark word-of-mouth and build loyalty. 

Here’s a list of cre­at­ive PR activ­it­ies that can help your organ­isa­tion stand out, engage cus­tom­ers, and encour­age them to share their pos­it­ive exper­i­ences with others.

  • Host a cus­tom­er appre­ci­ation event with per­son­al­ised gifts and spe­cial deals. 
  • Offer pro bono ser­vices to a non-profit organ­isa­tion in your community. 
  • Create a loy­alty pro­gram that rewards cus­tom­ers for referrals.
  • Run a social media con­test and reward user-gen­er­ated con­tent.
  • Host free webinars or work­shops on a top­ic related to your industry. 
  • Offer free con­sulta­tions or advice ses­sions to poten­tial customers. 
  • Write a white paper or research report on a top­ic related to your industry. 
  • Host a pod­cast or YouTube series fea­tur­ing inter­views with industry experts.
  • Partner with a loc­al influ­en­cer to pro­mote your busi­ness on social media.
  • Create a char­it­able ini­ti­at­ive that donates a por­tion of sales to a cause you support.
  • Host a VIP event for top cus­tom­ers or cli­ents with exclus­ive access to new products or services.
  • Offer a per­son­al­ised wel­come pack­age to new cus­tom­ers or clients.
  • Collaborate with oth­er small busi­nesses in your area to cross-pro­mote each oth­er­’s products or services.
  • Host a char­ity auc­tion with unique items or exper­i­ences related to your business.
  • Write a guest blog post for a pop­u­lar industry pub­lic­a­tion or website.
  • Create a case study on how your busi­ness helped a cus­tom­er or cli­ent achieve their goals.
  • Host a com­munity cleanup event or volun­teer day with employ­ees and customers.
  • Host a themed party or event that aligns with your brand and values.
  • Offer a VIP tour or behind-the-scenes look at your busi­ness for cus­tom­ers or clients.

How good must these PR activ­it­ies be? Well, so good that it sparks word-of-mouth. It sets the bar high, but those who fig­ure it out will enjoy a great reputation.

Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please con­sider shar­ing my pub­lic rela­tions blog with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. If you have ques­tions (or want to retain my PR ser­vices), please con­tact me at jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

Suggested Reading

Michelli, J. A. (2008). The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. McGraw-Hill Education.

Lewis, L. (2005). The Trader Joe’s Adventure: Turning a Unique Approach to Business into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon. Kaplan Publishing.

Spector, R. (1995). The Nordstrom Way: The Inside Story of America’s #1 Customer Service Company. Wiley.

Hsieh, T. (2010). Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. Business Plus.

Chouinard, Y., & Stanley, V. (2012). The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned from Patagonia’s First 40 Years. Patagonia Books.

Tindell, K. (2014). Uncontainable: How Passion, Commitment, and Conscious Capitalism Built a Business Where Everyone Thrives. Grand Central Publishing.

Shankman, P. (2015). Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans. St. Martin’s Press.

Baer, J. (2016). Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers. Portfolio/​Penguin.

PR Resource: More PR Strategies

PR Resource: The 1‑Page Strategy

If you can­’t explain it simply, you don’t under­stand it well enough.”
— Albert Einstein

Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

How to Write a 1‑Page PR Strategy

My inspir­a­tion for writ­ing “no-bull­shit” strategies comes from the clas­sic “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters” by Richard Rumelt. The 1‑Page PR Strategy focuses on how to win. 6Rumelt, R. P. (2011). Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Crown Business.

The most basic idea of strategy is the applic­a­tion of strength against weak­ness. Or, if you prefer, strength applied to the most prom­ising oppor­tun­ity.”
Source: Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters 7Rumelt, R. P. (2011). Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Crown Business.

Here’s how you can write a 1‑Page PR Strategy that fits one page — using the myth­ic­al battle between David and Goliath as an analogy:

1. Analysis

  • David can­’t beat Goliath using his size or raw strength, but he has an advant­age in speed and accur­acy from a distance.

2. Guiding Principle

  • David should­n’t engage in close com­bat but rather use tools that will allow him to strike from a distance.

3. Coherent Actions

  • David should­n’t use any heavy armour because that would slow him down.
  • David should use a sling­shot, a weapon he is famil­i­ar with and can strike from a distance.
  • David should lever­age the sur­prise ele­ment and not advert­ise his advant­age beforehand.

If you write 1 – 2 clear sen­tences per bul­let, your strategy should fit nicely on one page.

Read also: The Easy Street PR Strategy: Keep It Simple To Win

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

1 Do Things that Don’t Scale. (n.d.). Do Things That Don’t Scale. http://​paul​gra​ham​.com/​d​s​.​h​tml
2 Hurn, C. (2012, May 17). Stuffed gir­affe shows what cus­tom­er ser­vice is all about. HuffPost. https://​www​.huff​post​.com/​e​n​t​r​y​/​s​t​u​f​f​e​d​-​g​i​r​a​f​f​e​-​s​h​o​w​s​-​w​h​a​_​b​_​1​5​2​4​038
3 Nordstrom, Inc. (2021, September 8). The Nordy Pod: The truth about Nordstrom’s legendary tire story. Nordstrom Press Room. https://​press​.nord​strom​.com/​n​e​w​s​-​r​e​l​e​a​s​e​s​/​n​e​w​s​-​r​e​l​e​a​s​e​-​d​e​t​a​i​l​s​/​n​o​r​d​y​-​p​o​d​-​t​r​u​t​h​-​a​b​o​u​t​-​n​o​r​d​s​t​r​o​m​s​-​l​e​g​e​n​d​a​r​y​-​t​i​r​e​-​s​t​ory
4 Ormont Blumberg, P. (2021, August 11). Southwest Airlines employ­ees cel­eb­rate pas­sen­ger­’s 104th birth­day. Fox News. https://​www​.foxnews​.com/​l​i​f​e​s​t​y​l​e​/​s​o​u​t​h​w​e​s​t​-​a​i​r​l​i​n​e​s​-​e​m​p​l​o​y​e​e​s​-​c​e​l​e​b​r​a​t​e​-​p​a​s​s​e​n​g​e​r​s​-​1​0​4​t​h​-​b​i​r​t​h​day
5 Chan, C. (2011, August 19). After tweet­ing about it, Morton’s Steakhouse met a man with a steak at the air­port. Gizmodo. https://​giz​modo​.com/​m​o​r​t​o​n​s​-​s​t​e​a​k​h​o​u​s​e​-​m​e​t​-​a​-​m​a​n​-​a​t​-​t​h​e​-​a​i​r​p​o​r​t​-​w​i​t​h​-​a​-​s​t​e​a​-​5​8​3​2​514
6, 7 Rumelt, R. P. (2011). Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Crown Business.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

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