Best Practices For How to Align PR Activities With Sales and Marketing

Bob Pearson

Companies have always been good at leveraging and monetizing the moment of transaction. The only problem is that “the sale” represents less than 1% of the time we spend online in our entire lives. Roughly 99% of our online time is spent learning, sharing, educating and deciding what we will do or buy next. The core skills of the communicator have never been more critical, provided that we deploy these skills and knowledge in new ways.

We call the 99% “PreCommerce,” a concept at the center of digital transformation for leaders in the Fortune 1000. Those who understand how to shape behavior, share content to catalyze storytelling and become a relevant member of their customers’ communities will win big. Those who continue to “talk at” customers will become dinosaurs.

During the last eight years, I’ve had the pleasure to meet, teach and develop strategy with thousands of leaders from hundreds of companies and organizations.

When I step back and look at what successful leaders are doing to transform their organizations, I end up with 10 key lessons that apply to the CCO as much as the CMO.

1. Transform your company, not a department. Social media is not a cute activity done by others. Rather, how we build the reputation of our brand and company online is a job for all of us. Whether our goal is to recruit new employees, integrate paid and earned media or identify issues before they hit the press, transformation works when the C-suite realizes that the company must change. Your job is to evangelize throughout your company what must be done to change and lead.

2. Think of all current models as old school. Leaders adapt a mindset that what we were taught in school and what we have done for the last XYZ years is fine, but the models are old. There is a better way to identify influencers, a better way to know what language to use and a better way to understand the content that will work most effectively. Every model can evolve when you apply the right algorithms and resulting insights. No model is sacrosanct.

3. Centralize strategy, decentralize execution. If you want to scale innovation, you have to harness it, build models that explain how it works and intellectually scale it in your organization. That means people within your company must understand the model and find it simple and easy to explain.

If you decentralize innovation, you will end up with long term chaos and an organization unable to learn from itself. Build official models. Create a strategic roadmap, just like you would an IT roadmap that shows how you will evolve your company and culture over time.

4. Realize your consultants are learning too. The most innovative people are continually learning. The question is often, “Are your agencies also continually learning?” Join together and learn together.

Remember that if your agency is not keeping up with your pace, it will drag you backwards to the older models it is most comfortable with. The agency will measure impressions and page views when you could be talking about how to shape behavior and drive sales, for example.

5. Learn how to fail fast. Ever seen a bald eagle outside your window while at work? That is more likely than reading an internal case study that showed how a team failed. That’s actually what you need. We learn a tremendous amount from failing fast, learning why and adapting.

This is how science works. It’s how innovators work. But inside companies, we spend too much time creating perfect case studies where everyone did wonderfully and the results were all wonderful and we are all wonderful. Only problem is that doesn’t lead to more wonderful results.

6. Focus on ROI from the beginning. Learn how to build share of conversation, similar to how you build and measure share of market. Learn how to measure catalyst behaviors, like search, recommendations and sharing, that show progress towards your desired result. Spend time figuring out what behaviors need to occur for success and then figure out how to measure them.

Don’t measure the same passive metrics we have done for years. Who cares how many website visits you had or how many people might have seen an article. We care about what they did as a result.

7. Never guess. We live in a quantitative world. The answers are right in front of us if the analytics are strong. Take control of how you measure and ensure that you are getting insights, not data, on who has influence, which words drive behavior, what content your customers want, where they hang out by channel, what time of day they are most active and much more.

Remind yourself that if you are guessing, you are not in the right place.

8. Innovators will drive change. Find them. The best innovators are often outside of your team. Make it cool to partner across functions. Realize that by elevating the innovators outside of your department, your colleagues will subtly realize that it is time for them to raise their game as well. Simply don’t wait.

9. Dinosaurs protect yesterday’s models at all costs. We call them antibodies. They show up at every meeting, dress nicely, have budget and smile often. But what they say is dangerous to innovation.

They say things like “let’s look at that next year” or “interesting, why don’t you talk with X and Y and see what they think” or “I’d love to, but we don’t have budget.” Antibodies are the real enemies of innovation. Make fun of them, challenge them, but don’t let them get away with it.

10. Become a student of digital. You become an expert in an area when you decide to become a student. You need to force yourself to read different news, learn about stats you didn’t know before and do this daily. Before you know it, you’ll realize that 10 languages reach 82% of all people online or two-thirds of all people believe they are visual learners. What you learn will change how how you work. PRN

How to Fail Fast (and Succeed Faster)

It’s easy to “succeed fast,” but few companies know how to “fail fastand learn how to innovate faster than their peers. Here are three lessons I’ve learned that apply to communicators.

1. Shift from case studies to next practices. Case studies package what already happened. You are studying the past and, guess what, every case study is positive. Every one. Next practices identify areas you need to innovate in, like media relations or community management. Externally, you study the leader in the market in real-time and figure out what they are doing right or wrong. There is a different leader for each activity.

2. Hold a new type of meeting. Every month or so, invite your team to a meeting where the only objective is to focus on ideas that will accelerate innovation for your company. The rules are simple: You can only talk about “how” an idea will succeed. If someone violates this principle, you cut them off. It’s hard to do and it’s actually a lot of fun. Try it to open up the minds of your team.

3. Use real metrics. Too often, a pilot is set up with metrics that will most likely lead to a positive result, so you can get additional funding for a project. That’s not a pilot. That’s a bureaucratic process to get new money. Instead, set up robust analytics where you look at behavior (search, recommendations, reviews, sign-ups, sharing) to see if what you are doing is really catalyzing the market. Don’t fall back on measuring impressions, page visits, and time on site. They tell you very little. Bolder metrics lead to cleaner insights and faster learning on what’s next.


Bob Pearson is president of W2O Group and author of “Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers are Transforming Business Together” (John Wiley and Sons). He can be reached at