Does PR increase sales?

Ask most PR people and they’ll tell you PR increases sales.  Ask them by how much and they’ll start to get awfully vague just like all marketers do when you ask a specific question like this.  The problem with answering this simple question is that PR affects a company’s reputation and that in turn affects its sales.  This is compounded by the fact that other things also affect the reputation of a company, such as competitive actions, customer service and customer experience.  As a result, you get this less than impressive equation:

PR + Other things = sales

Now in certain, rare circumstances you can all but eliminate the ‘other things’ part of the equation.  That tends not to be possible in larger companies, or even small but established companies.  Even when it does happen there are often caveats you need to throw in.  Intuitively though we all know though that a great piece of media coverage in a great publication tends to help the sales efforts of most clients.  So how does PR deal with this?

The answer isn’t to try and isolate the other things to prove PR is helping sales.  The answer is to make sure PR is being applied to the sales process.  To do this effectively you have to know what the sales process is of course and this is where most companies fall down.  Sales and marketing are all too often at war and seem to try and do their best to make the other’s life more difficult.  But for PR to really increase sales, PR needs to get much closer to the process of sales.  Most really well run companies can articulate their sales process and will be able to identify a host of points in a process where customers are open to influence and therefore where PR can help.  In other words, PR and sales can work together to advance customers through a process which results in a sale.  So how come so few companies explain their sales process when you pitch their business and how come so few PR people ask about it?  The reality is that marketing and comms people tend to brief PR agencies.  I’d therefore really encourage PR people to get in front of the sales side of the organization when you pitch and then regularly after that.  We can learn a great deal by talking to sales.  We learn what challenges really exist in selling the client’s products or services.  We learn what the real differentiators are and we learn the points in the process that are most critical to them and therefore where PR can help the most.

To put this all another way, PR can increase sales but only if it really understands what it takes to make a sale.

4 Comments on “Does PR increase sales?”

  1. Marc Hausman says:

    You’re spot on about the importance of being well tuned in to a client’s sales organization — who are they targeting, what is the process, what’s the competitive situation, what obstacles exist, etc.

    However, traditional tactics associated with public relations (i.e. media relations, analyst communications, etc.) are awareness and credibility oriented. The ROI is fuzzy at best and it is very difficult to define what the “right” amount is for an organization to spend in this area.

    That’s why social media marketing has been such a blessing for communications professionals. It is a content driven medium making it ideal for PR to own.

    Plus, unlike traditional tactics with the requirement to work through influencers, we can directly target our client’s key audiences — in a measurable way.

    I wrote this blog post nearly 18 months ago, yet I believe my contention holds true today.

    Why “Sell” Isn’t a Four Letter Word

  2. timdyson says:

    I very much agree that the shift to social media is a huge opportunity for the industry and that it brings measurement options not previously available. My point though is that regardless we need to create a bridge to sales if we really want to succeed as an industry. For some reason though many PR people view sales as the less glamorous side of the business…

  3. Jason says:

    I find this question most interesting. Many people focus on NEW customers and where the response came from but in truth if PR is working properly people get a positive impression of your company and brand subtly. The reason Nike sponsor top sports people is they want their customers to make a subtle link between top performers and their products. PR is not sledge hammer marketing and will take a while to see results. What you can measure is how successful you were at generating PR and how people feel about your brand afterwards. Here is a link to a blog I wrote with some interesting articles around generating new business through PR.

  4. […] mix that makes the magic happen.  Tim Dyson of Next Fifteen explains it well; it’s mostly “PR + other things” that do the […]

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