A Marketing Tool that Should be in Your Mix

Author: 
Brad Rawls

Business leaders often question how public relations can help them close sales. Digital marketing and advertising feel reassur­ing because the results are more quantifiable. But let me ask you a question: When you’re surfing your favorite news site, are you more likely to validate what you see in an article or an ad?

People trust third-party media because it seeks to inform, not sell. Of the hundreds of stories available, media organizations tell only the fraction of stories that will best serve their audience members. When your brand appears in that context, people pay attention. That is what makes public relations such a brilliant sales tool.

Today, prospective clients will discover a lot about your business before you ever have a real conversation. PR is about creating a trail of discovery. With great PR, clients understand who you are, what you do, and why it’s valuable before they hear your sales pitch.

The pitch that pays
So how can PR give you an edge in the sales process?

Awareness: A brand is to a company what an identity is to a person. It’s a collective set of experiences, characteristics and values that define your organization. And just as people often experience conflict between their inner identity and outward reputation, brands suffer the same problem. The world doesn’t always see the company the way the sales team sees it.

PR closes that gap by presenting one consistent, compelling image of the brand to the outside world. The news articles, interviews, social media posts and other earned media enable prospective clients to see your company the way you see it.

Contributed articles, while not typically linked to direct sales, are especially useful because they feature your subject matter experts as thought leaders in the industry. Contributed articles give readers a direct, unfiltered view into your brand.

When brand-focused PR is done right, it plants the following thought: “Whoa, I like how these guys think. How can they help me?”

Credibility: Websites are supposed to help you better understand a brand, but more often than not, you leave more confused about what a company does than when you started. Tech companies in particular have a reputation for making their products and services incomprehensible. Talented PR people have a reputation for making the complex simple. They humanize your brand.

For sales teams, that’s invaluable. Think about it: if prospects read your website and ads and don’t understand what you do, your sales pitch will fall flat.

If a PR firm pitches a journalist about your product, that reporter gives a fresh perspective on what you do. The article is easy to understand and credible. It’s validation from a person who is paid to be objective.

The underlying message of an advertisement is, “You should buy this.” The underlying message of earned media is, “You should know about this.” It’s easier to sell to the person who feels informed about your product.

Community: The realm of public relations has expanded to encompass new technologies, tools and metrics and with it, new strategies to help you develop your brand. Digital advertising can help secure new business, but can you be certain that it is doing the work of building and curating a community around your brand?

Social media is an excellent way to extend your thought leadership and start conversations around your brand values. The days of social media as an advertising platform have evolved into engagement-based campaigns and authentic communication that deviates from the droll drumbeat of strict brand messaging. It allows you to stay connected with customers, clients and partners and to share the good work you’re doing. If you are accessible to your audience and aren’t afraid to engage them in conversation, you’ve already secured more purchase than a simple advertisement. A strong brand with a unique voice will easily stand out, giving your sales team a needed boost.

Even the best sales teams need support. They need a clear message to convey. They need new developments to talk about. They need as few barriers as possible to communicating value and differentiators. PR can pave the runway by raising the level of awareness, credibility and community around your brand. With a solid PR strategy that aligns with your sales objectives, your team can get a much-needed edge.  

Brad Rawls is senior vice president of business development at SSPR, which specializes in creating effective public relations campaigns for B2B and B2C technology companies.