Keep the Story Going: How to Expand Your Brand Via Word-of-Mouth Marketing | An Interview with Pat McCarthy from WOMMA, Part 1

Ask for a fish, and you’ll be fed for a day.

Ask to be taught how to fish, and you’ll be fed for a lifetime.

Interview the fisherman about the most effective lures, the best times of day to head out on the lake, and strategies for reeling in big ones, and you’ll be able to feed you and your family for a lifetime and maybe buy some clothes that don’t smell like Poseidon’s bathroom after a frat party.

Made a Mistake

I made a mistake. Please accept this giant flower as an apology.

As is the case with most forward motion in my life, my opportunity to interview Pat McCarthy, social media coordinator and blog editor for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, came from a screw-up on my part.

You know how people say you should learn from other people’s mistakes? I’m “other people.” You’re welcome.

I had written a blog post about word-of-mouth marketing being a powerful tool for a particular restaurant, and I cited WOMMA as an organization that “tracks” what people say about a company.

Except… they don’t. Oops.

Luckily, Pat was kind enough to leave a comment on the post and clear up a few things. I sent over an email to thank him and asked if he would mind answering a few more questions about WOMMA.



Word of Mouth Marketing Association

Tell me about WOMMA and the services it provides.

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association is a trade association that is based around a pretty niche market. We serve as an advocate for the industry: word of mouth and social media marketing.

We don’t do marketing for companies. We don’t get hired.

Our business model is this: companies become members of WOMMA. For example, Kraft Foods is a client of WOMMA. They pay us an annual membership fee, and for that, they get our services as part of their membership.

They have access to all the educational information, the same as other members.

What we say is that we’re the Switzerland. You can imagine we have a ton of agencies who are members and competitors. We share technology, we show no favorites, and we keep the focus on education and opportunities to network.

One of the pillars we were founded upon was ethics. We were very keen on keeping up with the ethical issues around word of mouth marketing.

One thing we do is verify our members behave ethically in our marketing practices.

We worked pretty closely with the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] to develop more current guidelines for recommendations and testimonials. This is a document that hadn’t been updated by the early ’80s. The internet didn’t even exist then.

For marketing, it became a whole new playing field.

Yes, the document was well overdue for an update.

Another thing we do is provide a lot of education. A lot of that is because this is a newer industry. There are a lot of things to teach: everything from your basic foundation to much more advanced strategic planning.

How do you get this information to your members?

We do this through webinars and online certificate courses (usually about 6 webinars with a variety of different people in the field instructing it). Also, we have two major conferences per year – School of WOM and Summit in November.

There are presentations of case studies involving WOM and social media marketing. The presenters have been doing this longer than anyone else and really learned quite a bit from it.

We also have these offline events called Talkable Brands Exchanges. This is a one-day, brand-focused event that really concentrates on issues brands are facing in word of mouth marketing.

Talkable Brands Exchange

Talkable Brands Exchange

Why separate brands from other categories of WOMMA members?

The majority of our membership falls into three categories: brands, agencies, and service providers. They have different needs.

For example, an agency’s focus might be more specifically on their specialty as a marketer, like if an agency is particularly good at doing social media campaigns.

Aside from that, agencies are generally always looking for new clients. They’re always looking for new business. And brands are generally looking to make their products more profitable, sell more, and enter new markets. So they’re more focused on making what they already have work. Agencies are often more focused on networking, which there is a lot of at our major conferences. We created an atmosphere that emphasizes learning.

You know, if you go to a conference and everyone is talking to you and trying to sell you something. That’s not what everyone wants.

With the Talkable Brands Exchanges, you want to remove that pressure.

We want an open and relaxed learning environment. That’s what we provide.

Tell me a bit about what you do for WOMMA.

At WOMMA, I’m the content person. I do our social media, and I write one of our blogs: the WOMMA Word. I also edit the WOMMA Research Digest, which is a monthly word-of-mouth research that’s going on. I also edit the All Things WOM Blog. I recently contributed to it, but normally I edit it. What that entails is finding good blog posts to repost or finding members want to write original blog posts.

I also help with some of the customer service and intake processing that comes along with the membership.

If you had to define word-of-mouth marketing, what would your definition be?

It’s essentially marketing with a goal of ethically getting people to talk about and recommend your products or services. The philosophy behind that is that the most trusted people that people know are their friends and family.

If you could somehow encourage or inspire people to speak about your brand, that is the most valuable point of advertisement.

That will always 100% of the time beat a TV commercial, billboard, all the traditional types of advertisement which are really just media buys. Word of mouth marketing is more about organic message dissemination.

How did you come to work for WOMMA?

I was in a writer’s group with a woman who worked at WOMMA, and she got a job at one of our member companies out in LA. So she left WOMMA, and I had always thought that WOMMA sounded like a cool place to work. The job sounded interesting, creative, and something where I would really use my brain.

So it looks like you found WOMMA through word of mouth, appropriately enough.

I did, in fact.

Tune in this afternoon for part two of this fantastic interview with Pat McCarthy of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association!

But first, what did we get from part one?

  • Pay attention to legislation related to your industry. If there are outdated documents that might need some sprucing up, your organization could gain credibility and authority in the field by contributing.
  • For B2B companies, your clients may be competing against one another. Look for ways to provide a community where they can receive content from you and exchange ideas in a low pressure environment.
  • “If you could somehow encourage or inspire people to speak about your brand, that is the most valuable point of advertisement.”

BREAKING NEWS: Being a part of WOMMA is helping Kraft start serious buzz for its brand!

What do you think of the interview so far? How do you use word of mouth marketing? Sound off in the comments below!

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!

Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.


  1. Joseph Giorgi

    Glad you were able to shed some more light on how WOMMA operates. I can see where their services would be invaluable to companies looking to expand beyond an immediate market.

    I’m looking forward to Part Two. 🙂

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks! I think WOMMA’s services are not only great for that expansion you mentioned but to increase the brand loyalty among existing customers as well as those immediate networks.

  2. amy

    Great Part 1 Jana!

    I especially liked, “If you could somehow encourage or inspire people to speak about your brand, that is the most valuable point of advertisement”. This is so true!! Anytime I want to try a new restaurant or go to a new salon I always ask my friends about it first. I practically bombard them with questions, but I trust their opinion over anyone else.

    I’m also looking forward to Part 2!!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks for the feedback. I totally agree with Pat’s points about how a personal recommendation will trump absolutely every other source (almost) every time. Working on marketing in a way that inspires these kinds of personal recommendations is an often neglected but wildly valuable strategy.

    • Amanda

      I agree Amy! If someone I know and trust uses a service or business, I’m much more likely to check it ou! =)

  3. Jill Tooley

    Let me just say how awesome it is that a staff member of WOMMA found out about the position through word of mouth! That’s a perfect example of how effective this method really is! 🙂

    Marvelous interview, Jana. I’m psyched to comment on the second part as well. 🙂

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