By Taren Fujimoto
This month’s column is brought to you by Taren Fujimoto, an intern with Fujita & Miura Public Relations.
Up until recently, Hollywood A-lister Tom Cruise upheld a shining image. With a stellar acting career spanning two decades and counting, a reputation as one of the friendliest celebrities to fans, and an unswerving smooth, charismatic conduct off-screen, he easily established a secure place in the public’s heart. Then, the unexpected happened.

After giving the boot to his long-time publicist, Cruise appeared to have aborted all sense of PR control. And so began his outlandish couch-hopping, Scientology-preaching, Katie Holmes-worshipping streak, shocking everyone the world over. In what some considered out-of-hand, rude behavior, he publicly criticized actress Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressants to address her post-natal depression and got into a tiff during an on-air interview with a reporter, “Today Show” co-host Matt Lauer, a definite PR no-no.

To that end, Cruise has been torn to shreds by merciless media and the butt of late night show jokes. Many have questioned if his new persona is simply a PR ploy to boost his appeal in an industry where fresh “it” stars pop up daily. Since he has built a strong, gleaming reputation over many years and his wild antics have only recently emerged, Cruise hasn’t suffered irreversible PR damage yet. In fact, as a testament to his PR foundation, Cruise fanatics rallied behind their hero, landing his summer thriller, “War of the Worlds,” at the top of the box office during its opening week. This says a lot for the power of loyalty in the PR mix.

This same concept of loyalty (minus the controversy) can be applied to all businesses who feel compelled to undergo a transformation in order to survive amongst tough competitors, who may be newer or bigger or have swankier promotions. Whatever competitors’ draws are, well-established businesses can leverage the loyalty of their customers to their favor. In addition to providing a valuable product or service, how do you build a loyal clientele PR-wise? Consistently informing them about your company and latest offerings is a smart way to keep the lines of communication open and your business top-of-mind. This could be done through a newsletter, website, personal letter, etc. You’ll want to be sure to hear them out too, either through formal processes, such as focus groups or customer feedback forms, or by just “talking story” so that you know how best meet their needs. Furthermore, treating your consumers with respect and appreciation go a long way, and high-quality customer service will deliver these directly and effectively. Finally, reward these folks for their loyalty by offering them exclusive discounts, bonuses, or anything special that they will value.

Keep in mind that loyalty can only go so far and must be maintained. If Cruise continues to show a lack of respect for his colleagues and the media, his attractiveness will surely wane. But, for now, loyalty has saved the day.

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