Keep the Story Going: How to Expand Your Brand Via Word-of-Mouth Marketing | An Interview with Pat McCarthy from WOMMA, Part 2

Welcome back! If you haven’t done so already, check out part 1 of this revealing interview with Pat McCarthy from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. In part one, we found out the main pillar on which WOMMA was founded and what a WOMMA membership can do for YOUR brand or agency.

In this half of the interview, we discuss a few recent case studies in word of mouth marketing, what Pat’s idea of a brilliant campaign is, and some strategies for keeping people talking about your brand.

Reasons consumers go to social media or social networking sites

Online social media use

I wanted to talk a little bit about two of your recent articles from the WOMMA Word Blog.

You reviewed some word of mouth research by the IBM Institute for Business Value regarding the use of social media online. Of the respondents, 23% say they use it to interact with brands, and some of the big reasons why people [didn’t interact with brands] were privacy and spam. What would be some advice you would give to companies for dealing with those concerns?

People who come into social media from traditional are used to traditional-style messaging, which is push messaging or we-have-a-deal or new products. With word of mouth marketing and social media, it’s an approach of interaction.

Instead of blindly trying to promote your product, ask people questions.

“Is there a way you use our widget different from how it’s supposed to be? What do you like about it? Or how have you used our widget in the past week?” Something along those lines.

Ask the question, prompt a response, and provide similar interests and information. When I post on my Facebook page, I’m thinking about this: Here we have 14,000 people who say they like WOMMA. Why do they like WOMMA?

Because of who we are and what we represent.

So what do they want to see? What do they want to hear?

I post a lot of articles about word of mouth marketing. I ask questions about what they like and if they’ve seen any interesting campaigns. I get people involved, and they like that a whole lot more than me saying we have a webinar.

Even if you’re promoting something like a webinar, event, or sale, you can do something as simple as “this is a webinar coming out” and post something related to the content.

People will respond, and people will share.

New York Intern Project

The New York Intern Project sponsored by Affect

I also wanted to talk about your online contest case study with Affect, a PR firm based in New York. The PR firm was looking for an intern. The contest brought the site huge traffic, and they firm got to have a dynamic interview experience where applicants demonstrated skills rather than reported them on a resume.

We recently had a Bubba Day promotion that was very successful. I’d love to hear your perspective on the sustained effect of online contests. Do people stay engaged after an online contest? What are some things you can do to take advantage of that?

With this particular promotion, Affect has an opportunity to keep the story going after the contest is over.

They need to keep the story going, which gives them another three months of content and invites people to come in and check in on what’s going on.

Once a contest is finished and someone is hired, they can find a way to continue telling the story of that, because it usually doesn’t end with the end of a contest. There’s still more excitement and follow-up after that.

It could be something as simple as starting a blog and having the intern write a blog post once a week: “This is what I did, this is what I learned, this is who I met.”

I’d say a lot of college students would think it’s an interesting point of view, and a lot of marketing and PR companies would like to have an inside view of how young people are getting into the market, considering that it’s quite different from when someone might have started 20 year ago.

So if it were something as generic as a sale, asking people to post pictures of what they got on sale or suggestions for a new promotion might be a way to “keep the story going”?

Exactly. Find a way to keep the story going. Keep it interesting and keep the story going.

If something was successful initially, there was something to it.

Think about the Old Spice man—

I love Isaiah Mustafa.

That started as a brilliant commercial, right? They could have left it at that. Their sales spiked after that. They were probably quite happy with their ad agency. They were winning awards with the TV ads and everything. But they came back several months later with the YouTube responses, with the Old Spice guy responding to press and celebrities. That was a brilliant move.

They kept the story going, and it’s paid off.

I think that a lot of times people believe traditional media and word-of-mouth or social media or any of these new buzzwords are mutually exclusive, when really it’s just a different approach to using the same tools.

I think what we’ll be seeing in the next few years is that a lot of people who were typically word of mouth for years will be expanding into more traditional fields and combining with more traditional agencies so they have a full marketing suite. They can do an integrated type of thing with traditional, social, and word of mouth elements.

It will be one umbrella term.

It’ll just be one of the tools in the toolbox.

If you had to tell a company who they should be a WOMMA member, how do you pitch it?

Well, first I would want to make sure that they’re the right company for WOMMA. If you’re a dentist, it’s probably not a good one. Although they would benefit from word of mouth marketing in general, they might be able to get all the tips they need from ours and others’ blogs.

And dentists have really bad PR anyway.

Companies that want to benefit from word of mouth are our ideal members – brand, agency, or otherwise. We offer a lot of opportunities to learn how to execute different marketing strategies successfully and ethically.

By becoming a member of WOMMA, you’re showing you’re interested in making your brand or your client’s brand talkable and trusted in the industry and you want to do it ethically.

What a great note to end on!

To sum things up in this half of the adventure:

  • Keep your social media following engaged by providing content in response to the answer to this question: “Why are my fans following me in the first place?”
  • Don’t let newly engaged customers lose interest after a promotion is over. Keep the story going!
  • Social media, word of mouth marketing, and traditional marketing are not mutually exclusive strategies. You can use one form to support another.

What, dear readers, did YOU get from this interview? Did I miss any critical questions I should have asked Pat? Why might your own company or organization benefit from a WOMMA membership? 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. amy

    Holy moly! There’s a lot to pull from in both parts of these blogs. I really liked how Pat brought up engaging your social network, instead of just promoting your brand or product.There’s been a few companies that I have “liked” on Facebook because, well, I genuinely like them. However, after three days of constant status updates about their brand and how wonderful it was taking up my news feed I hid their posts. This saved me the aggravation of having to scroll down through their updates on my news feed to find out what my family and friends were up to, but on their end they still saw me as a follower.

    I really hope that those companies are taking notice of Pat’s advice and jotting down some notes. Another great post! 🙂

    • Jana Quinn

      That’s a great point, Amy. A company can too easily base success on numbers rather than participation/engagement and then wonder why there’s a low ROI. Gotta stay involved!

  2. Rachel

    I really like the idea of keeping the story going. It’s something I definitely appreciate about brands and companies but have not put into words before. The Old Spice Guy is a great example, for sure. Thanks for the great interview!

    • Jana Quinn

      Thanks! Narratives are very powerful and underused in “professional” settings for fear of being too self-indulgent or casual. However, as Pat explains, narratives can be riveting AND relevant as they help build a relationship between your brand and your clients.

  3. Amanda

    Agreed! You can’t let people forget about your company…you’ve got to stay fresh in their minds. Promo products are great at doing that–it’s something people can hold and look at as a reminder. Gotta love them!

    Great interview, Jana! =)

    • Jana Quinn

      Promo products have traditionally been excellent companions to word of mouth campaigns. If you can add something visual and tactile to an auditory pitch, you’re extending the life of that impression. Nice point on the tie in, Amanda!

  4. Jill Tooley

    Some of my favorite snippets are highlighted below:

    “Instead of blindly trying to promote your product, ask people questions.”

    This is a big one! It’s a huge mistake to scream “me, me, ME!” without taking the time to listen to customers and their needs. Just because a company’s product could technically fit into a marketer’s game plan doesn’t mean that it’s the best option out there. Take the time to address consumer concerns by legitimately offering solutions – not just by self-promoting! It’s the whole “Miracle on 34th Street” approach we talked about in a blog meeting. 😉

    “Social media, word of mouth marketing, and traditional marketing are not mutually exclusive strategies. You can use one form to support another.”

    YES! I’m so glad this was mentioned somewhere. Some marketers think that you have to either take the “traditional” stance or the “new and scary” stance and nothing else, which is SO untrue. Don’t spread yourself too thin, of course, but it’s always a good thing to expand your brand by rounding out the marketing approaches you take. Customers come from all different walks of life, and it’s about what’s convenient for them!

    Solid post. Thanks for all of the excellent info on WOMMA and their hard work!

  5. Joseph Giorgi

    “I ask [people] questions about what they like and if they’ve seen any interesting campaigns. I get people involved, and they like that a whole lot more than me saying we have a webinar.”

    Exactly! It’s all about involvement, and it’s great to see that WOMMA is so proactive about facilitating consumer involvement with brands.

    I also love that you brought up how different approaches to modern marketing don’t have to be “mutually exclusive.” In truth, brands should be focusing on ways to use EACH approach to their advantage.

    Excellent interview, Jana!

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