Why does Customer Marketing struggle with Publicity Clauses?

By Irwin Hipsman

If you are the first Customer Marketing person at your company, it is important to build a foundation for enhancing your current and implementing future customer programs. Even if you are not the first person in the role, it may be time to check for cracks in the foundation. In this post, I am going to focus on avoiding getting tripped up on contractual publicity clauses. It’s not most glamorous activity, and easy access to the data is important to product and content marketing, customer success, and PR. I would also add the product team. When looking into accounts to offer Beta access, adding publicity status to the criteria could lead to customer participation in a product launch.

The key steps are creating a publicity status field in your CRM and finding the clause in existing contracts. Sounds easy.

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Create a field in Salesforce: This takes some thought as it is not a binary yes/no. Contracts change over time, companies use their own T’s and C’s, or the publicity clause edited. I recently did this at Nexthink and we finalized on 6 options.

Find the publicity clause: Literally, every contract needs to be looked at, the clause found and interpreted. Depending on how the contract was saved, you might be able to search for the words publicity, marketing or marks (trademarks). In Salesforce, the contract could be found with the opportunity or the account, in file cabinets, or with legal’s system of record. Even better, contracts may be in another language or changed during a renewal.

Recommendation: When you are in the contract, snip the actual clause and save it in the Notes/Attachments section at the Account level in Salesforce. This will make it easier to find the next time you need it.

It’s a lot of work and you may have to prioritize on key segments of your customer base. Most SaaS companies have a publicity clause in their T’s and C’s or EULA and this process may bring up the larger question of what’s in your publicity clause. I did a search and found two basic flavors.

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Use of Logo “Customer agrees that Service Provider may identify Customer as a customer and use Customer’s logo and trademark in Vendor’s promotional materials”. This is pretty standard and would include a website or customer list in a presentation.

Use of Logo+ “Service Provider may: (i) use the Customer’s name and/or logo within product literature, press release(s), social media, and other marketing materials; (ii) quote the Customer’s statements in one or more press releases or case studies”. This is where it starts to get sensitive, especially with press releases. In a contract negotiation, nobody is going to want to pick and choose where to use the name/logo and I would suggest not including press releases in a clause like this.

Also, the last thing you want to do is get your customer in trouble with their company. To avoid this, regardless of what the contract says, the vendors internal process should be quotes for a press release or participation in a case study require written permission.

Recommendation: Try to develop a relationship with your customers Corporate Comms team by giving them lots of lead time as your press release will not be their highest priority or involve them early in the development of the case study.

Contract Negotiations

I have been on both the sales person and the customer marketing side of the publicity clause challenge and it is important to understand what each is trying to do. Sales wants to close the deal and publicity clauses are often the first thing to be redlined. Sales will accept the change as it is an easy concession to make. But, this may be short-term thinking as having a logo on a web page, quote in a press release, story in a use case or customer presentation is a way to deepen the relationship with the customer and help validate your company to the industry and generate new prospects. I may be naïve—if a customer purchases your product, to me it means they believe in the company and want it to be successful, develop additional customer programs and hire in support, customer success, and product development.

Generally, the larger the company, the harder it will be to keep the publicity clause intact and here are some ideas.

1. Show the customer other places they have allowed a logo to be used, quote included in a press release, or a case study published.

2. Discounts. Generally, they backfire on the vendor. The customer can change their policy, Corporate Communications still says no or waters down the quote or story so much that it is not helpful, or the vendor dd not take advantage of the publicity clause. If the customer changes their mind are you really going to send them an invoice for the discount? And, at renewal time the discounted price becomes the starting point for negotiations. Over the lifetime of a contract tens of thousands of dollars can be a stake.

Recommendation: Try to keep a publicity clause in the contract even if you can only use the logo, quote or story with written permission. This way the customer is protected as the default is no, but at least the door is open for that request that may also be in the interest of the customer.

Conclusion Start-ups have different publicity needs than mature companies, and if you sell a learning product it is easier for your customers to speak publicly as compared to a security product. Regardless of your situation, managing the publicity status of your customers is a core activity that should not be ignored.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn

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