Public relations as a sales tool

Public relations and sales are extremely similar, and both are integral to the success of an organization. Businesses depend on sales to generate revenue, and they need positive public relations to build awareness, maintain a solid reputation, drive engagement, and inspire sales.

PR is essentially a sales job. Public relations professionals are on a mission to sell stories and ideas, increase visibility and credibility, and build a positive reputation, while salespeople sell products or services.

Think of it this way: effective sellers work tirelessly to create target audiences of potential buyers and / or decision makers. They will endeavor to cultivate leads from this list, identify and engage with prospects who may be interested in the purchase, seek out opportunities, and close at least some of the deals.

The public relations process is comparable. A public relations professional identifies the audience they are trying to reach as well as the media that target those demographics. They identify leads (potential media contacts), engage with prospects who might be interested in covering the story, research opportunities, and close certain deals (secure coverage).

Since sales and public relations are virtually identical in terms of process, public relations professionals would be wise to think more like salespeople to ‘close the deal’. There are many effective sales techniques that can help you become a better PR practitioner. Whether you are selling products or ideas, many of the same rules apply: building trusting relationships, being respectful, being with integrity, being honest, following up proactively, and more.

Here are some tips for selling your business through public relations:

Do your homework. Just as you wouldn’t blindly pursue a cold-selling lead, do your homework before running a PR campaign. Research each medium to determine what they cover, if they are relevant to your target demographic, and how they highlight issues relevant to your industry. Then customize your approach accordingly.

Build an appropriate target list. Take the time to compile a list of relevant outlets and media contacts that cover your industry and appeal to your key populations. Make sure you’re targeting the right contacts or you’re just wasting your time (and theirs).

Follow up proactively but respectfully. Sending a “pitch” by e-mail does not guarantee that it will be noticed or read. Media contacts are busy, on time and often inundated with emails. Send one or two follow-up emails to make sure your pitch gets noticed. Be proactive, but respectful, and never sound accusatory (eg, “why haven’t I heard from you yet?”).

Establish relationships of trust and reciprocity with the media. Remember, this is not only what the media contact can do for you and your business, but it is also what you can provide to HIM. Think about how you can help your contact with their stories. Offer to be a resource. Connect them with other industry thought leaders, as appropriate. Provide background information, illustrations, interviews. Do whatever you can to make their jobs easier.

Demonstrate integrity. This promotes the building of trust and relationships. Always keep your promises. Be honest. Meet deadlines. Provide documents and interviews. Be trustworthy. If you drop the ball or miss a deadline, the contact will immediately lose confidence in your ability to be a resource, and you will ruin the relationship – and future opportunities.

Showcase your differentiators. Why should media contacts cover your story? Why should they focus on your business versus the competition? As with sales, it is important to stimulate interest and desire. Show “what’s in it” for the reporter and his audience. Use case studies or testimonials. Focus on the benefits of your business. Show what sets you apart. Show how you can heal audience pain. Showcase your thought leaders as subject matter experts with unique perspectives that will enhance a media story.

Enjoy the snowball effect. Effective sales and public relations campaigns are like snowballs rolling downhill, picking up speed as they go. A positive press leads to a more positive press. Follow these tips – for example, do your homework, demonstrate your credibility, build trusting relationships – and you’ll get positive and meaningful PR coverage that will help drive sales.

Sales and public relations campaigns are essential to the success of your business. Positive public relations will help you increase your visibility, establish your credibility, generate interest, engage with key audiences, and drive sales. Think of PR as a sales tool and build your strategy accordingly to maximize positive results.

Stefanie Guzikowski is director and founder of the virtual public relations firm E&G Public Relations, LLC. We specialize in leveraging passion and expertise to help our clients market themselves to their market, gain competitive advantage and ultimately grow their business. Stefanie can be reached at [email protected] or 603-817-9464. For more information, please visit www.egpublicrelations.com

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