3 February 2021

The wisdom of crowds and the power of ‘buzz’

One thing that Greg Wilson learnt early in his career, even before he was in public relations, was that people follow the crowd…

As a graduate in the late 90s looking for my first marketing job, I naively came up with the idea that if I could get my mates’ band a record deal, it would look amazing on my CV. I dutifully got a whole load of CDs printed and developed a “promotional pack” to send out to record company A&Rs, inviting them to a “showcase gig” at a renowned A&R pub in Camden. I hammered the phones asking if my beautiful promo packs had been received, did they like the CD? Were they coming to the gig? Several said yes. But on the big day, to massive disappointment, all-round, not one record company showed.

When I called to ask why, I remember one particularly honest response. The promo pack was very nice, he said. He even really liked the CD, but he was only ever really interested in coming to see bands who already have some “buzz”. Put simply, “selling” a band to a record company doesn’t work. Not unless they’ve already heard that you’re one to watch.

When that happens, the direction of travel is reversed. Bands with “buzz” often ended up with record companies fighting to sign them up, to the utter dismay and disbelief of all the other bands who are pitching themselves so relentlessly.

This was an early lesson that the perceived “wisdom of crowds” trumps salesmanship and fantastic marketing every time, no matter how beautiful your sales pitch is.

But how exactly do you define “buzz”? Well following the music business example, it was hearing the band’s name from venue owners, promoters, sometimes rival artists – basically anybody who didn’t have a vested interest in the band’s success – before receiving the CD and gig date. It was about being seen to already have fans. A following, if you like.

After more than 20 years in the public relations profession, the same still goes. If your buyers can see evidence of your greatness, outside of what you are telling them directly, they will follow that crowd wisdom – and buy-in to all your empirical evidence that you are the right choice.

This is the lesson for sales and marketers who are unsure about the value of PR. Hone your marketing and your sales pitch all you like. But if you want to be a superstar, make sure you have the “buzz” to back it up. Be the one to watch before you try to sell, and selling will suddenly seem easy.

In fact, they may just come to you.

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