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The Cherry Blossoms are blooming. The power of word of mouth.

Each spring, as the delicate pink blossoms start to open, Washington shakes off the winter’s chill and is overrun by people. Locals and tourists. Young and old armed with cameras, cell phones and sometimes painter’s palettes converge along the Tidal Basin to witness the beauty of spring. The U.S. National Park Service has long celebrated the gift of trees from Japan because they “symbolize friendship between nations, the renewal of spring and the ephemeral nature of life." But that’s not why people come.

People come because their friend said, “I’m going downtown to see the blossoms. Do you want to come with me?”

Spring’s favorite festival which includes more than a month of activities, performances and the blossoms draws people because like everything else in life, someone thought it would be fun to “check it out.” Some people travel a great distance to come to Washington, DC because seeing the cherry trees was on their bucket list. Whatever the reason, word of mouth brought them.

Word of mouth is the single biggest driver of business in America.

In 2003, Ed Keller and Jon Berry wrote a book called, The Influentials: One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote, Where to Eat and What to Buy. If you haven’t read it, read it. The book sums up decades of consistent findings conducted by RoperASW polling. Specifically, that ten percent of Americans wield a huge amount of influence within their communities.

Ask a small business where they get their customers. Answer? “Word of mouth.” Ask a corporation why they cut their PR/advertising budget, they’ll tell you because, “word of mouth drives their business.” What does that mean for new or struggling brands? What does that mean for big brands who want to stay relevant? Can you build word of mouth?

The simple answer is yes. Of course, you can. Brands aren’t built by osmosis. They are built by consistent, thoughtful branding and messaging. In fact, when you take a step back and think about how people build an opinion about you and/or your organization, you’ll realize there is a lot that you can do to control word of mouth. It’s basic math.

Your own media + your earned media + your paid media = word of mouth.

That’s oversimplified, but it’s not wrong.

Think about all the ways that you communicate with your customers. Let’s start with your own media: your website, your social, your marketing, your emails, etc. All your internal and external communications tell your story to a broad audience of influentials.

  • If asked, does everyone on your staff know what your organization does?

  • Can they succinctly explain what differentiates you from your competitors?

  • Are they trained on your products and services?

  • Does your own media tell your story accurately?

  • Is the messaging consistent across all those different channels?

Earned media is your public relations, customer reviews, what other people are saying about you. It’s different from word of mouth, because you can control your earned media.

  • Have you built relationships with reporters?

  • Do you send alerts, briefs, releases to industry, consumer and niche publications?

  • Who is responding to requests for information?

  • Are you trained to speak to the media and convey your message accurately?

  • Is someone working on staff or externally helping you manage those relationships?

Last – but certainly not least - paid media is your advertising, promoted posts, event sponsorships, advertorials – any messaging that comes from a paid program.

  • Are you doing any paid media?

  • What goes into deciding where to invest your resources?

  • Do you track results/responses from where leads are coming from?

  • How are you evaluating your paid programs?

  • Are your paid messages consistent with your brand? Your services? Your customers?

Each of these communications channels is equally important. In 2007 John Mayer released Say, a Grammy winning song for the movie The Bucket List. The refrain “Say What You Need to Say” should be the mantra of every communications professional working to build word of mouth.

If you need more inspiration, the cherry blossoms will peak this week. It’s the perfect time to take a walk and think about what your brand needs to say and how you’re going to say it.


Brand & Buzz is a full-service strategic communications firm. We focus on solutions and deliver results. Our boutique firm is made up of experts in communications, branding, executive coaching, public relations, fundraising, video production, and website design. Everyone is unique. Our programs are too.

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