When PR takes a backseat to lead generation efforts in an organization, the strategic value of communication is masked behind a larger marketing umbrella. Don’t let this happen. Sales and finance rarely give PR the revenue-generating credit it deserves.This makes PR particularly vulnerable to budget cuts.
PR needs to bridge what is a chronic disconnect and take its seat at the revenue table. Here’s how:
Align with sales. PR must be included in weekly sales calls and planning sessions. Members of the PR team must know what deals are in process and enable them to progress. Align with sales to understand the target audience and how to engage it.
Understand titles, industries and attributes of these ideal targets and show sales how PR can develop relationships. Know where targets’ watering holes are and find opportunities to connect there.
Create a strategy to get your company’s name in front of targets; think thought leadership, not promotion, and communicate and collaborate regularly with Sales along the way.
Help to accelerate deals. Imagine you are targeting VPs of XYZ brand and they are in your pipeline with a high propensity to close but haven’t yet signed. This is an ideal time to accelerate the sales process by interviewing these prospects.
Write blog posts featuring them or pitch stories to media about them. You will gain their attention and build stronger relationships that facilitate the sale.
Put skin in the game. To add credibility to your effort, create service-level agreements using the SMART goals principle:
Specific. Target a specific area for improvement, in this case it could be XYZ
Measurable. Identify/quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress
Assignable. Assign a specific accountable party
Realistic. State what results can be achieved realistically, given available resources
Time-related. Specify when result(s) can be achieved
Sample service-level agreements could include the following scenarios:
▶ PR will aim to get x placements with a target audience within a specific timeframe and, in return, sales will post, tweet x times.
▶ When sales closes a deal, the rep will ask that customer for a video and written testimonial.
PR will work to get x quotes or testimonials from the target audience within a specific timeframe to be used for prospecting and website content, for instance.
Introduce an incentive program. Consider adding an extra incentive for video vs. written content. Incent behaviors you want to drive.
▶ For customers and prospects who provide video, you will create a copy they can use for marketing.
▶ PR regularly will create sample posts, tweets, etc. that the sales team can use. In return, sales agrees to post x number of times.
▶ For prospects with a greater than 50 percent chance of closing, PR will work to get a bylined article or media mention in a targeted publication your prospects read.
Help sales execs leverage publicity. PR is responsible for generating publicity for your company in the form of bylined articles, quotes in staff-written pieces, external blog posts and other social mediums. All of this content is earned media, which boosts credibility.
These are power tools in a sales person’s arsenal that will differentiate your brand. Too often salespeople are unaware of their existence or uneducated about how to skillfully leverage them. Don’t let this happen.
Be proactive and invest your time in teaching your sales reps how to leverage PR assets strategically during the sales process.
Schedule monthly meetings with sales to highlight publicity pieces your team has generated and work with reps to show them where each piece of content could be used to engage the prospect.
For example, for a prospect that is newly sales qualified, recommend a bylined article that talks about an industry challenge your offering addresses, which this prospect is facing.
If the prospect is further down the sales pipeline, an article quoting one of your customers is going to get her/his attention and advance the sale, especially if this customer has been offered as a reference.
The point is to understand the buyer and where he/she is in the purchasing process and deliver PR content that resonates and influences his/her decision.
Reward the right behavior. In addition to teaching your sales team how to leverage content, you should create a program to reward those who do it well.
Make it a friendly competition among the reps. Provide useful content to move the needle and your salespeople will become internal brand ambassadors.
During company meetings, take a few minutes to recognize these people as models of what can be accomplished.
Create a leader board for sales and make sure this metric is included with the C-level dashboard. If your budget allows, run contests and give additional incentives to exemplary reps.
If PR fails to align with sales, PR will be vulnerable. when budget cuts are being made. But it does not have to be. With a structured plan in place, backed up by metrics (not “fuzzy math”) and supported and valued by sales, you’ll have a solid case.
PR can be a powerful marketing tool that builds credibility and facilitates the sales process.
It’s time for PR to implement this unique value proposition, to align with sales and produce real dollars that bring value to the table.
Liz McClellan is CMO of North Plains Systems. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared in the March 23, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.