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Use Public Relations to Drive Sales (and Stop Confusing It with Marketing and Advertising)

Reprinted with permission from the book, Jersey Women Mean Business! Big Bold Business Advice © 2012 Published by Woodpecker Press, LLC

PUBLIC RELATIONS CHAPTER 47

by Amy Delman

What is so confusing about public relations (PR) that people lump it together with marketing and advertising, and expect the three to function interchangeably? More important, why is the word sales which is the
ultimate goal of any business rarely mentioned when attempting to define what each does?

Public relations does sound glamorous, and most think of it as a way with words a press release touting a product or service or a speech written for a client or senior executive. Unfortunately, many business owners especially small business owners treat public relations like the step-sibling to marketing and advertising practices. That’s a big mistake.

Public relations is a low-cost, highly effective way to accomplish business goals. It is an invaluable tool in creating favorable public opinion and increased name recognition. It differs from advertising in that it is an unpaid, third-party endorsement of a company, a person, a product, or a service. A third-party endorsement is when a newspaper writes a story about you or your business, or a radio or television station mentions the name of your company during a broadcast and that alone creates tremendous credibility for your business or brand. So anytime you are mentioned in broadcast or in print, it is an unpaid, unbiased, third-party endorsement.

If you doubt the value of public relations, consider the June 2006 webinar hosted by PRWeek in which Hans Bender, Ph.D., of Proctor & Gamble, discussed P&G’s Statistical Modeling Efforts to Determine the ROI of Public Relations. Surprisingly, P&G found that PR does the following:

  • Drives sales, often on a par with advertising.
  • Delivers stellar returns on investment (ROIs), much greater than advertising.
  • Provides a halo effect over other marketing tactics.
  • Overall, P&G found about a 275 percent ROI for public relations.1
  • Delivers ROI on relatively low levels of spending.

End the PR Confusion

Now that you know the magic public relations delivers, why is it so often confused with or cobbled together with marketing and advertising?

To answer that question fully, you must understand what marketing and advertising are.

Marketing is everything and anything strategically done to promote a business. Business cards, stationary, the way the phone is answered, networking, relationship building, and selling should all be defined in a comprehensive marketing plan. This plan serves as a road map, and helps identify the customer and the best tactics to make that customer aware of and impressed by what the company can deliver.

Advertising is a paid endorsement of a company, a product, or a service, with the goal of bringing that product or service to a targeted audience. Advertising is on display in magazines, on billboards, television, radio spots, and in brochures. What separates advertising from public relations is that advertising is owned and paid for by the creator, and the message is company crafted.

Sales, of course, are the ultimate goal of marketing, advertising, and public relations. For the most bang for the buck, marketing integrates both advertising and public relations into its plan. Marketing identifies the target audience or market, public relations pursues third-party endorsements (which builds credibility in the public arena), and advertising reinforces the paid message or brand.

Of these three strategies or plans, public relations is burdened with a reputation for being the one least likely to drive sales. Why? In the past, it was almost impossible to measure public relations, and as a result, it was reduced to fluff when examining where potential leads come from. But modern-day public relations shows this is no longer true. For instance, a search engine optimized (SEO) press release includes keywords, as well as links (backlinks) to a company’s website, which helps it rank high in the search engines. The hits on the website can be traced, measured, and quantified. Additionally, an article that appears on the Internet most often comes with links back to the client company’s website, which can also be measured.

PR Builds Relationships

At its very core, public relations is about relationship building with clients, potential clients, referral sources, vendors, employees, and the media. Business owners are often surprised to learn that growing a company and
generating awareness does not require big marketing dollars. You can work with a public relations agency or an independent public relations practitioner. Large corporations tend to have an in-house public relations team within
their marketing department.

A major benefit of using public relations is to make the salesperson’s job easier whether he or she is visiting an established client or going on a cold sales call. By searching the Internet, the salesperson can find out if the client
company has been mentioned by the media. Or, the salesperson can ask his or her public relations department to create a list of where the client company has been mentioned.

Now, when the salesperson walks into the appointment with a trade publication or newspaper that mentions the client’s company, the client feels important and a trusting relationship starts to blossom.

With an established client, any time the company is mentioned in the news, the salesperson can call or send a congratulatory e-mail. It’s a powerful way to touch the client without discussing sales. When sales and public relations work hand in hand, it’s a productive one-two punch. The goal of the public relations team is to create an atmosphere where sales are a natural byproduct of a solid relationship.

As recently as ten years ago, public relations relied solely on press releases, articles, speaking engagements, special event planning, and community/civic activities to create a positive awareness of a company, product, or service.

However, with the increasing use of social media, public relations practitioners have a host of online tools at their disposal. The use of video, for instance, has revolutionized the way companies can get their message out to the public, and at the same time, raise their Google rankings on the Internet.

Public relations is not about how many fans a company has or how many followers pursue a brand, it’s about creating an environment where sales can take place. When put that way, the goal of public relations hasn’t really changed.

Amy Wachtel Delman has been involved in public relations, marketing, and branding for over two decades. Her expertise lies in using media exposure to raise awareness and increase revenues in companies where she has worked in-house or as a consultant. She has been mentioned in Inc. magazine and the National Journal of Public Relations. To find out how Amy can help your company grow, contact her by phone at 201-563-4614.

Buy the Big Bold Business book HERE.

References
1. http://metricsman.wordpress.com/2006/06/15/roi-is-statistical-modeling-the-answer-depends-on-thequestion/; date accessed: June 2006.

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