Sell-PR as a Noun
No, I don’t mean how to sell PR, rather, how PR can help to sell. Let’s call it Sell-PR.
In this time of uncertainty about the economy, this nation’s future leaders, and our position within the global community, the effect of “trickle down” has reached the world that we know as our clients. It is not especially surprising if companies backed by private equity ask about the value of PR in the mix of a multitude of “questionable expenses” that businesses review.
PR should not be a questionable expense. It is the centerpiece of a business strategy toward building customers, partners and valuation. I’m glad to say that I’ve spent the past few weeks with some VCs and institutional investors who acknowledge this and are helping their portfolio management teams grasp the rationale. Still, they want to know how PR can help sales.
It’s easy to say that PR is part of the selling process. And it is. But to get more specific, I present three reasonably simple ways to make the connection more apparent. I’m overlooking the fact (which is hopefully and abundantly obvious) that PR is a selling tool and the media that we garner is perhaps the best sales support activity.
First, PR needs to be “pegged” to interactive marketing strategies. When combined, these tools are a strong support system for the sales force. This is the reason that we have integrated PR and interactive marketing under the same Fusion brand. For example, we suggest creating a balanced approach of SEM (paid advertising) and SEO, so a company maintains the greatest influence over online viewers. Then use tags within search and social media optimized press releases to maximize impact by helping to ensure that customers are surrounded by a client’s literature when a related search is done. Another example of integration might be using a press release as the content for an email direct-to-customer campaign rather than adopting overt selling copy. This is especially relevant when the news has tangible selling substance such as a new product or technology. PR copy in advertorials, landing pages and microsites is an extension of this point.
Second, PR does play an active role in customer outreach (in this framework we’ve questioned and considered whether or not “PR” is a correct term for our industry). Over the years, we’ve collaborated with customers, media, and analysts to meet with clients in the context of educational briefings, updates, roundtables, and media opportunities. It doesn’t take much to transform these gatherings into sales meetings.
Third, coordinate with the sales force. If sales is reaching out to a particular geography or vertical then the PR effort should shadow the initiative to maximize and broaden the impact. Consider what may be intuitive, but not always top of mind such as: bloghubs (blogs focused on specific areas that are not the megablogs), local broadcast, chamber of commerce events (where customers can participate), customer events (at related conferences), and PR programs set to draw customers to the sales efforts (i.e. distribution of a media alert re: an education briefing on small business storage solutions at the local chamber of commerce).
Strangely enough our clients need to understand that PR is a selling action. Even if we were to exclusively focus on building a company’s image, that in and of itself, is a key factor in selling. Perhaps, at the end of the day, the term PR doesn’t define us in a time when selling is so influential a component of the “Public” we target.