Making The Most of Your Public Relations Investment
Done well, public relations (PR) is a significant and important investment for any business, large or small. Getting the most value for your money depends on a lot of factors, including choosing the right PR partner.
This is the third post in a series exploring the relationship between PR and a variety of executive roles within a B2B company, and how to maximize the ROI. (The first post is focused on founders, while the second was geared towards CMOs.)
Sales is a high-pressure, high-reward job that demands resilience, adaptability, and exceptional communication skills. It is no wonder, then, that the field tends to attract confident, competitive, knowledgeable individuals with a passion for building relationships. Coincidentally, these are the same traits PR professionals find useful.
In fact, sales and PR have a lot in common. While sales and PR are distinct roles and serve different purposes within an organization, the overlap, particularly in building relationships and influencing the right audience(s), can be an advantageous meeting point for both parties.
Over the years, as I have experienced what makes a communications strategy successful, I have come to truly appreciate the important purpose sales plays in an organization. The sales team quite literally keeps the lights on, and has perhaps the most direct impact on a company’s revenue than any other department.
Because sales is often kept separate from the communications function within companies, the team often doesn’t realize the complementary role PR can play. But, in effectively working together, sales and PR can help differentiate the brand in a crowded marketplace with well-planned public relations campaigns. By establishing a more formal collaboration, the VP of sales – and the entire sales organization – might find additional opportunities to eke out a competitive edge.
The Crucial Link Between Sales Goals and PR Strategy
When we begin work with a new client, one of our first questions is always “What are your business goals?”
Who better to contribute to the answer than the VP of sales, who sets aggressive targets and navigates competitive markets daily on behalf of the organization? Unfortunately, the sales team and the PR team aren’t often brought into meetings together, causing a huge disconnect in the story the PR team tells and the actual needs of the sales force.
It makes a big difference if the VP of sales is more involved in the strategic planning of PR and marketing campaigns. Armed with specific and measurable objectives, the PR team can easily align media targets and messaging with the real-time expectations of a sales force whose requirements can fluctuate just as quickly as the news cycle.
Leveraging PR to Stand Out and Boost Sales
Even if the VP of sales is persuaded that PR can help the department hit their numbers, they may not always know exactly how public relations can directly impact sales. Armed with this information, the VP of sales can make requests and provide insights to help steer the ship in a way that will most benefit the underlying sales goals of the organization.
A PR team can:
Create an environment of trust and goodwill
Strategically managing the company's public image is not about creating “spin” or brushing off bad publicity. A strong PR partner is responsible for ensuring transparency, building honesty, and fostering trust among the company’s audiences.
Additionally, your PR partner can engage in activities like community outreach and corporate social responsibility. This means the first time a prospective customer hears about the company is not through a sales pitch, but connected with building the community and being good stewards.
Think of companies like Instacart, which offers grocery donations, disaster relief, and giving campaigns, and holds an annual volunteer week of service. The goodwill generated from these types of programs can be a foot in the door for the salesforce before they ever even reach out to customers.
Increase brand recognition
Your PR partner is sharing the story of your brand to key audiences, such as consumers, media, influencers, regulators and end users. Every time an article or social media post goes live, thousands of new eyeballs see that brand name.
When faced with numerous options, consumers are more likely to choose a brand they recognize, as it simplifies their decision-making process. They also tell their friends; a recognized brand is more likely to be discussed and recommended. Customers are often willing to pay more for products or services from a recognized brand because they associate it with quality and reliability. (Nearly half of consumers say that they would pay more to purchase from brands they can trust).
Build an audience.
PR activities can lead to increased website traffic, social media followers, and inquiries from potential customers. This, in turn, provides the sales team with a larger pool of leads to nurture and convert into sales opportunities. An engaged audience driven by PR efforts can be a valuable source of leads for the sales team.
That’s not all. PR partners who know what they are doing will segment the audience to reach specific target groups. This allows the sales team to focus its efforts on leads that are more likely to convert into paying customers. By reaching the right audience through PR campaigns, the sales team can work with a more qualified and responsive set of prospects.
Provide a competitive edge.
In a world where consumers and businesses alike are increasingly informed and discerning, a well-executed PR strategy can provide sales executives with a competitive edge, helping to differentiate their company in a crowded marketplace and ultimately driving sales growth.
This can be done through thought leadership, case studies, community engagement, media presence and consistency across communication channels. Quality PR content can educate and inform potential customers about industry trends and solutions to common problems. An educated audience is able to make informed purchasing decisions and engage in sales conversations with a better understanding of what the company offers.
A well-informed VP of sales can harness the power of PR to directly impact sales. Engaging with the PR team to fine-tune messaging and align communication goals with concrete sales goals increases customer engagement and builds a wider pool of leads to nurture and convert into sales opportunities. Giving the PR team more information and a way to measure success helps us prove our worth and support company revenue in a more direct way. Everybody wins.
Collaboration = Growth
Sales teams are primarily focused on meeting revenue targets and driving immediate results, which can lead to pressure and a focus on short-term gains. PR teams are often focused on managing the long-term reputation and image of a company, which may involve more strategic and sometimes slower-paced efforts. Those differences may lead to the perception that these two functions do not – or should not – overlap.
But PR partners can absolutely support the immediate objectives of the sales department. And, it turns out, sales has a lot to offer PR to help achieve some of those long-term goals.
A VP of sales is involved with the target audience of a company in a more personal and immediate way than any other department. The sales team has frequent interactions with potential and existing customers. They engage in conversations, presentations, negotiations, and problem-solving. This direct conduit to the end user provides an opportunity to understand customer needs, preferences, and concerns. When we work together, the VP of sales can contribute immediate feedback to inform communications strategy. Sharing the pain points of consumers in near real time allows the PR team to convey how the organization solves these problems on a scale that salespeople often aren’t able to access. (Imagine the competitive advantage this uncovers for companies where PR and sales collaborate vs. those where they don’t.)
More cooperation between sales and PR teams can foster open lines of communication, allow the mission of the company to flourish, create more opportunities to stand out from competitors and add new pathways within the sales pipeline.
The high-pressure world of sales and the strategic domain of PR may seem distinct, but they share common ground in building relationships and influencing key audiences. When both teams recognize and appreciate each other's strengths and work together to achieve shared business objectives, the results can be astounding. When sales and PR teams unite, they amplify the potential for high-reward collaboration in a traditionally high-pressure environment.