Often confused with, or thrown in with sales and marketing, PR has a reputation for being less likely to drive sales, yet it can be one of the biggest drivers to help jumpstart a business’s sales.
Why? It is an invaluable tool in managing a business’s reputation and increasing brand awareness. Creating favourable public opinion and strengthening name recognition across multiple channels is crucial for any company to not only appeal to its target customer base, but to also stand-out from the competition.
I’ve seen companies sell products purely off the back of coverage we’ve achieved for them, and experienced how positive online reviews can drive web traffic.
For optimal results and consistent sales, public relations works best as part of a bigger-picture plan that includes other marketing channels and tools. Earned, owned, and paid media need to work together, not in isolation. It’s about creating an environment which will drive consumers to a sale.
Here are the top three most noteworthy ways in which a well-executed PR programme can generate prospects and turn them into customers.
In today’s crowded marketplace and online world rife with fake news, it can be hard to discern what products and services are reputable. This has made credibility more important than ever and perhaps harder to attain. Brands must earn the trust of customers, and that’s where good PR can play a role.
According to Nielson, people trust earned media (editorial articles and posts) and owned content more than any other formats. This is further backed up by the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, which found that 65 percent of consumer trust lies with journalists, academics, analysts and other experts — only second to friends and family. Seeing a brand mentioned in a positive story in the media or recommended by a respected reporter or industry expert can be an invaluable piece of PR and create credibility via third-party validation.
It stands to reason therefore that earned media and social mentions generated by a strategic PR campaign work as a sales support tool.
Expertise is a powerful tool to set you apart from the crowd. Thought leadership builds a bridge of trust, creates authority and reliability within an industry.
PR can help build your reputation as a thought leader through both earned and owned media. Whether it’s through placing opinion pieces, providing comment for features, writing a letter-to-the-editor or a blog post, these are all tactics to convey your industry expertise and authority.
Similarly, we have lined up suitable speaker platform opportunities for clients at industry events or hosted round tables where key issues are discussed are debated and then shared with the media and other key stakeholders.
The important thing to remember is that thought leadership is not a popularity contest – it is about building a solid relationship of trust. A process that takes time and is the result of repeated demonstrated ability and dedication.
Where products and services are complicated and have a drawn-out decision-making period, education is a key part of the sales cycle. This is where PR comes in – it can offer the depth required to explain key differentiators or educate a prospect in a more credible and compelling way than traditional advertising.
On and offline reviews and earned media coverage can be a key part of that education process- indeed 84% of shoppers prefer to carry out research and browse online before making a decision to purchase – regardless of whether they end up buying online or in-store. This is where earned and owned content can work together and play a key part in the sales process, driving prospects down the funnel and validate their decisions.
By Stefanie Hopkins, managing director, Faith PR