The Role of Public Relations in Customer Experience

At the Chicago Digital Customer Experience conference, I had the opportunity to host and learn from some of the pre-eminent speakers in the Customer Experience (CX) realm, including Judy Bloch of Citi, Ghada Ijam of Amtrak, and Dave Dyson of Zendesk, to name a few. Over two days, we examined the world of CX and its impact on our companies.

Why is CX important?

A focus on improving customer experience delivers three benefits to our brand:

  1. Retention. Retaining a customer costs less than finding a new customer. The better the customer experience, the more likely we retain a customer. Net outcome: less churn.
  2. Upsell/cross-sell. Upsells – selling more things to the same customer – generally require less effort than new sales. The more holistic a customer experience, the more likely we will upsell, growing the customer’s lifetime value. Net outcome: more money.
  3. Evangelism. Loyalty and a strong, positive customer experience creates evangelism. The better our overall customer experience, the more likely a customer will do unpaid marketing on our behalf as an evangelist, telling friends and colleagues about our products and services. Net outcome: more customers.

What is CX?

CX is the sum of experiences a person has in their interactions with a brand, from the moment they become aware of the brand to the lifetime of ownership of that brand’s products or services.

We’ve used the term customer journey frequently at SHIFT; CX is the roadmap which makes up that customer journey. CX and the customer journey are comprised of two sections: the buyer’s journey and the owner’s journey.

total customer journey.png

Every interaction, online and offline, that a customer has with a brand is part of CX.

How does PR integrate with CX?

Public relations integrates with CX in two important ways: mitigation and amplification.


One of the most frequent causes of crisis communications in public relations is poor customer experience. A company delivers a poor experience and a customer documents it thoroughly online, causing a firestorm. The role of public relations in cases like this is mitigation of the crisis through prompt response. The faster and more skillful the response, the less impactful the crisis. The very best companies intercept crises before they ever reach a serious stage, putting out the sparks before they become a fire.

The key to effective mitigation is that public relations and customer service must be deeply integrated. Both teams should share monitoring responsibilities, and both should coordinate on responses to customer problems. Effective CX for PR requires the demolition of silos and the belief that either support or PR is solely responsible for communication to the customer.


The opposite scenario is when a company delivers outstanding CX. When a customer experience is amazing, customers tell the world about it. The role of public relations in cases like this is to amplify the positive, quickly and forcefully.

To do so, public relations must have robust, near-realtime monitoring capabilities which accurately detect not only activity, but also sentiment. Public relations must also be deeply integrated into marketing and sales teams to make the most of positive customer interactions. As customer success stories develop, PR should distribute those stories to marketing and sales, reinforcing to prospective customers what a positive experience they could have with our brand.

PR must also have access to or share control of advertising capabilities. So much of public social media today requires paid amplification; when something great happens, public relations teams need to have one-click access to boost a story beyond what organic reach alone delivers.

Integration, Integration, Integration

Just as effective CX is defined by integration of all parts of a company, so too is the efficacy of PR in a CX world. We must integrate with advertising, marketing, sales, support/service, at every level of our business. Only with complete integration will we deliver maximum impact of earned media to support and enrich the customer experience.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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