Can PR Drive Sales? The Answer Had Better Be Yes!
Last month, Engage PR supported a successful technology launch for one of our clients in the 5G space. There is a lot of strategic planning and wrangling that PR pros have to do to execute and manage a client announcement. It’s even more critical to get the right visibility, reach the right influencers that impact the client’s business. Our thoughtful and well-crafted outreach efforts ultimately drove coverage and visibility with many of the tier-one tech media that are important for the client’s business. The good news is that the launch and press coverage caught the attention of a prospect. A prospect that the client had been trying to court for many months. Perhaps the news was validation that this client had the right approach.
It’s not the first time we’ve heard that an article that we secured for a client or a PR campaign we executed on drove in a qualified sales lead for the client. It brings up a good question, should PR play a more active role in sales? The answer is, yes.
PR should be about helping a company achieve its business and market objectives, whether that’s growing market share, shortening sales cycles, and turning that interest into action for prospects is a role that PR is well suited to play.
For another long-standing client in the service provider market, they saw the value of PR in supporting sales nearly five years ago. As a result, we have been investing more time with the client’s sales team and creating campaigns that will further impact the client’s business. Despite these examples, I’m still surprised to learn through conversations with other CMOs and marketing executives how disconnected their PR programs are from their sales processes, especially for a start-up or a company trying to build its awareness in a new market.
It’s not that most CMOs don’t consider PR to be an essential tool for sales, but many limit the PR function to driving media coverage, writing press releases, blogs, and case studies. Generating releases is one of many PR tactics; salespeople often leverage press releases as validation to help increase their chances of making a successful sale. However, many companies stop short, and most PR firms don’t think to dig further and truly understand how PR can better complement and drive sales. Not all clients want this, but more and more companies that we are speaking with now want to know how their investment in PR will help with the bottom line.
Now more than ever, considering that most industry events have been canceled or moved to virtual for the foreseeable future. PR should have access and communicate regularly with the companies’ sales team. Having access to a company’s sales team helps us understand a clients’ pain points, competitive threats, and ultimately, why their customers buy their services or products rather than their competitors’. Have a regular conversation with sales helps us drive the narrative that’s favorable to the client. That also requires a PR team to have a deep understanding of the client’s market, target customers, and competitors.
Talking about the Language of Sales
I’ve found that it’s so important to have regular conversations with the sales team about their target and current customers, who they compete within the market, and why they win and lose a deal. It’s often a good starting point on what we need to do from a PR perspective. Salespeople shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time educating their PR rep about their challenges and opportunities, which is a waste of time for a salesperson. For the telecom client that I referenced above, while we report to the marketing manager, we also regularly speak with their sales team to understand the challenges and opportunities he sees. The client was up against one problem: they had no visibility or credibility in the North American market, despite their network footprint. We drove a plan that had a balance of ongoing press releases highlighting their network expansion in different markets and new network routes. We connected and got them to engage with the industry analysts. We continued to drive trend stories through interviews and byline articles that positioned the client as a thought leader on topics top of mind with the media, including SD-WAN and cloud-connect services.
The regular drumbeat of coverage generated by the company’s news and on key trend stories had a more significant impact on driving traffic to the site. While PR can’t close the deal, we learned that in fact, our client was called upon by several customers who would have otherwise not been familiar with the operator.
A PR team should have seasoned writers who can quickly produce a drumbeat of collateral, including case studies, contributed articles, social media content, blogs, white papers and press releases. Writing case studies gives us direct access to customers who may not be willing to do press releases or talk to the media, but who will support the company’s sales efforts. We’re able to capture why these customers buy and use our client’s offerings in the company’s messaging and to pitch broader trend stories. This helps us drive consistent visibility and mind share that helps attract customers that may not have been aware of the client.
Building a story that reaches the C-level executive and has staying power
A high-level story in the press is valuable in getting the attention of the client’s customer. This is where aligning a smart PR team and your sales team helps find that unique trend story. It’s that story that shows thought leadership and creates multiple points of pull from the marketplace so that prospects and partners want to learn more about your company, service and maybe your next prospect. Most companies have multiple interesting stories that speak to a variety of topics that reach different verticals, such as gaming, education, and finance. Building and driving these stories creates multiple opportunities for clients to be a resource with the media and to insert themselves into a variety of trend stories.
A PR agency must leverage the insights it gains from the client’s sales team to develop multiple stories, have relationships with the media that matter and understand how to tie the client’s stories to the trends covered by the business press. Again, this approach requires a focused PR team with strong collective knowledge and experience with developing and pitching stories to the media.
At Engage PR, we’ve had numerous successes with clients who give us access to their teams and trust our process. From there can quickly develop and execute strong coverage that drives awareness for the company.
These stories have a long shelf life and can lead to customer deals well beyond when the story ran. That was the case with another client where a story that ran over three years ago resulted in a recent inbound inquiry from a prospect that quickly became a customer win for that client.
Understanding How to Leverage Industry Analyst Relations
A PR team should also know the right industry analysts. Time and time again, I hear how critical industry analysts are to a company’s sales efforts. But not every analyst is the right fit for your company. PR can help align sales with industry analysts to make sure they can help with the company’s long- and short-term goals. A PR agency that is focused, like Engage PR, will have the right relationships and know the right approaches to bringing together the right industry analysts in the event the company’s products or services straddle multiple markets. Engage PR’s teams are well versed in dealing with this problem because of its vast experience in bringing new companies and technologies to the market.
If your PR program is not aligning with your sales efforts, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your PR process.