Intuitively you believe all marketing activities, including PR, should support your sales program. Yet, you recall that PR has a higher calling and should remain in the domain of strategic corporate activities that center on shareholder value, goodwill, and corporate citizenship. Both views are right-on, as PR is a broad discipline and can be deployed to address many needs at multiple levels within a company.
But for now, let's focus on how PR can add value and shorten the sales cycle.
Get on the Radar or Fall off the Map
A sales cycle can't begin without leads, and one of the best ways to generate leads is to build awareness. Awareness comes from being found and the more times your company or products are found, the greater the awareness.
Some of the most effective awareness building tactics include issuing news releases over the wire where they are picked up by news content aggregators and land on websites throughout the net. Feature coverage, bylined articles, and inclusion in stories make your company a player. Speaking engagements enable direct contact with key audiences and can also be widely promoted to targets that were not at the event.
Insider mediums are some of the most effective awareness building environments as you are relating to your target audience on their turf. Newsletters, conferences, association events and groups on social media (think LinkedIn) are just a few examples. Industry analysts such as IDC, Gartner and the like, along with consultants and commentators, are valuable targets that not only aid in building awareness – they build credibility.
Capturing Awareness and Channeling Interest
With a consistent awareness campaign in place and a well thought-out and articulated messaging strategy, your next challenge is to harness this awareness for sales. In the Internet-age all paths lead to your website. Those seriously interested in what you have to offer will eventually click to your site. This is the moment of truth where they will determine if they become part of your prospect community based upon how your site communicates to their needs. This includes their need to feel secure that your company is credible, their need to access more in-depth information, their need to find comfort in the companies you partner with and the clients you serve, and much more.
Offer ways for the prospect to engage themselves with your company on your website so you can now begin a dialog. Webinars, gated content, email newsletters, surveys, request forms for information or even for a sales rep to call ... are all excellent methods to progress the sales process. And don't forget to give them a reason to come back to your site so it will be among their bookmarks when they launch into a short-list sales review.
Proactive Beats Passive
Whether you call it re-purposing, recycling or good old fashioned merchandising...do not forget to package and push your PR successes directly to your prospects and business affiliates. You can't assume that the coverage you landed has been seen by your key targets. You can, however, ensure that they do see it by posting it on your web site and providing it to them via email, or social media. Take quotes from media and industry analysts and use them on your website, in newsletters, in booth graphics, in personal correspondence, in presentations, etc. Be creative and you'll gain power...the power of influence.
PR and the marketing imagination must be combined to reach the fullest potential of impacting sales. Passive PR without the muscle of a marketing touch isn't the right strategy for today's sales focused companies. As my father once told me..."nothing happens until somebody sells something."