My colleagues like to debate whether PR should have a direct effect on sales, and whether PR specialists should know how to sell a product to an audience directly or indirectly. I believe that PR is sales in its purest form. A good PR specialist simply has to be an excellent salesman. There is no way around it.
Sales are a logical result of PR activities. Why else would businesses need PR? Only PR does not necessarily sells something tangible. For example, a PR specialist working for a charity foundation sells the opportunity to feel useful to the society, generous, and empathetic. An in-house PR manager sells the product to end users and the company itself to its partners. A PR person in a theater makes patrons feel important and gives them a sense of belonging to the world of art and culture.
Mistakes in Sales = Mistakes in PR
I have been doing some research on expert sales. Firstly, because that is how we sell things at our agency, especially in the b2b segment. And secondly, because all customer requests were receive have to do with sales one way or another. It could be a need to create a personal brand, an aim to get orders through social selling, etc.
Read enough articles about mistakes in sales, and you will see that they correlate almost perfectly with the classic PR mistakes. You will find a summary of them below.
Error 1: Spray and Pray
In sales, spray & pray is when you write, call, or meet with as many people as possible in the hope to draw the right people into the sales funnel.
In PR, it is the same: you simply send press releases, pitches, or even articles to anyone who will take them. The more email recipients, the higher the chance to get at least some results.
Targeted contacts have more effect than the spray and pray method. I once read a beautiful phrase, "You can say the wrong thing to the right person and still get a deal, but you'll never get one with the wrong person, no matter what you say." This also applies to the interaction between PR specialists and journalists.
Mistake 2: Me-Messages
While a useful communication technique, this one doesn't do much for outbound sales. Marketers often use me-messages when approaching potential customers — or, more precisely, we-messages like "We are company X, and we offer a great product" —when what they should be doing is focusing on the customer and using you-messages. The transition from "me/we" to "you" takes some research and time, but makes the customer feel important and demonstrates the seller's knowledge of the market and customer circumstances.
PR folks make the same mistake when they broadcast the message "Our product is great." Better think about the interests of the journalists and media! You could get a much better effect by saying something like, "You have recently published a great article about the trends and state of affairs in our industry. We have material you could use to write a follow-up and let your readers get to know our market from all sides through your articles."
Mistake 3: Communication Without Reason
This is when salespeople send friend requests to potential leads or try to get them interested with meaningless messages like "We are from the same industry" or "We have mutual friends." SO WHAT?
For PR folks, these messages will look like, "Oh, you write about this and that! Let's be friends!" Why would a journalist be friends with you if they have no direct interest in you, and you have done nothing to create that interest? Approach them with specific, personalized proposals. Then you can try and add them to friends... Later...
Mistake 4: Playing the Blame Game
I'm talking about the situation when marketers accuse potential customers of ignoring them when they don't get an answer to their messages. Something like, "I have sent you three messages already and still haven't received an answer. That is very rude of you." Strange as it may sound, most marketers, both beginners and pros, do it. They forget that it is them who owe customers something, not vice versa.
PR specialists are also sometimes prone to attack journalists if the latter are not answering their messages quickly enough. They may also do that to clients. The solution is simple — be polite. You can always write something along the lines of "Just a kind reminder that I sent you a message last week" or "I sent you a message last week, but things have changed a little since the, so I thought I would give you an update."
Mistake 5: Lack of Research
This includes both cold calls and cold contacts on LinkedIn. There is always a way to gather the bare minimum of information about a customer to target your offer more accurately and not get into trouble by asking a two-person startup founder if you could talk to their CMO.
Likewise, PR specialists should browse a publication's website and find the authors they need instead of calling the editorial office and asking whether they have people who could write about their company. The answer would probably be "Yes. The Commercial Department. They can write about anyone!"
One More Thing
Do you know what else this text is about? It is about how sales are not the result of luck, but a strategic process with its steps, metrics, and results — same as PR. Feel free to check out my article on the importance of measuring the effect of PR.