Marketing Bootcamp

8 Ways PR Helps Sales (and 1 Way It Doesn't)

8 Ways PR Helps Sales (and 1 Way It Doesn't)
Image credit: Tim Parkinson | Flickr

Did you know that public relations can be one of the most powerful ways to jumpstart sales? Here are eight ways PR can help your sales and one where it doesn’t.

1. Draw attention

The big difference between public relations and advertising is that PR takes a lot more effort, thus it is often referred to in the marketing industry as “earned media.”

Anyone can conduct public relations if they have the time, the know-how and the persistence. It is the great equalizer that can put you on par with the companies that spend millions on ads.

The book The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR argues that public relations is more effective in building a new brand.

It is obvious to most that an article in USA Today or Entrepreneur has a powerful way of drawing attention to you, vs. banner ads.

Whether your business is business to business or business to consumer, public relations can create massive awareness for your brand.

2. Generate interest

PR can generate interest primarily because of the medium: News stories by their very nature are more credible than advertisements.

Related: Generate Great PR on a Shoestring Budget With These 5 Tips

With the proliferation of online ads, the average consumer is bombarded with marketing messages all day long, up to 5,000 exposures per day.

Most of those ads will be ignored. But the power of the press means that stories will capture your attention.

Reporters excel at writing headlines and stories that they think are interesting. Successful pitching of the media is driven primarily by how interesting you make your idea to them.

Don't sell your product, sell a story. Pique their interest and half the battle is won.

3. Stimulate desire

Stories in the press that play on the themes of an event, scarcity, herd mentality and prestige can create desire. Other tips to create desire:

  • Use case studies or testimonials. A reporter is always going to want to know who is using your product.
  • Focus on benefits. Spending too much time on features is a common mistake. People care about what benefit you offer them.
  • Solve their fear. The flip side to benefits is alleviating fear.
  • Snowball effect. Good press can lead to more press.

4. Convince readers to take action

Conventional wisdom holds that PR works best for awareness, but isn’t good at generating conversions.

PR’s primary responsibility isn’t in driving conversions but rather works best when it is done with other marketing. Timing your outreach to coincide with advertising is a great way to leverage efforts and increase results.

Likewise, combining the power of content marketing with PR is another proven way to get your prospects to take action. A new whitepaper, survey results or an infographic all can be promoted via PR that then funnel to a lead-generation form.

5. Enhances credibility

Let’s compare two hypothetical websites.

The first one has a row of icons: CNBC, Barron’s, Wall Street Journal.

The second site doesn’t have any icons of media coverage.

All things being equal, which one has more credibility in your eyes?

PR is a powerful way to enhance your credibility in the eyes of your prospects and customers. And once that credibility is achieved, it is very difficult for your competitors to overcome.

6. Reassures

Once again, let’s imagine two hypothetical websites. Both have a news section.

The first has a consistent history of press releases being published every couple of months. Topics include events the company will be attending, awards won and new products being released.

The second site also has a list of press releases, but the last one published more than nine months ago.

Related: 6 Ways to Ensure a Journalist Will Love Your Pitch

The first website reassures the visitor that things are humming along. That’s the power of consistent public relations. And that could be what it takes to swing a purchase decision in your favor.

7. Acts as foot in the door

If you were a decision-maker at a company and you received a cold email, which would capture your attention?

  • PDF of sales collateral
  • A link to an article about the company from a news site

News coverage is an excellent conversation starter and a way to get your foot in the door in the minds of your prospects.

That’s in a B2B setting. Even in B2C companies, getting in the news regularly acts as a psychological foot in the door in the minds of your prospects.

8. Acts as evergreen content

Paid online ads will stop showing when the budget is exhausted. A news article in a respected outlet stays up for a long time.

When a prospect searches your company name, seeing a feature article will go a long way to increasing your awareness. Even when the agency stops doing work, the article remains.

But what about when there’s nothing to announce? Here are some suggestions:

  • Expert sources. Let reporters and editors know that a company’s executive is available as a source for quotes, validating data or providing expert opinion.
  • Conduct surveys. The press love survey results and surveys are a great way to establish yourself as an industry thought leader.
  • Whitepapers or infographics. Make sure the topic is timely, relevant and educational. Above all, avoid self-promotion.

The one way PR cannot help sales.

We’ve talked about eight ways PR can help sales. The one way public relations cannot help sales is if the product is so flawed that no amount of awareness will help improve sales.

This is a failure of product development and strategy, not of demand generation. Be sure your product is in top shape before committing resources towards public relations.