HOW TO USE SALES TECHNIQUES TO DELIVER YOUR PR MESSAGE
04th Mar 2021, Author: Candice Burgess-Look
When I’m asked what PR is, my short answer is SALES. This can be confusing for some because if you look up the definition of PR, you will be greeted with a long list of verbose explanations that include words like strategic communication, mutually beneficial relationships, stakeholder engagement etc. While this is all correct and certainly encapsulates a lot of what PR entails, I find it can be a little vague and doesn’t quite get into the nitty gritty of what PR professionals can actually help brands achieve.
Now if you look up the definition of sales, the internet will tell you that it involves the operations and activities involved in promoting and selling goods or services. And that is exactly what PR teams are doing. They are selling what your company can’t sell directly to the public – the ‘intangibles’ which are your image, reputation, core values and what I consider the most important, your expertise. Therefore, it makes sense that in order to truly excel with your PR strategy, you need to have a good understanding of how to make a sale.
Think about it, if you’re pitching a press release to a journalist, you have to pique their interest. How do you do this? You have to put yourself in their shoes and figure out what is it that they want and need. How is what you are selling going to make their life better? In this case you have to take it a step further and ask yourself how is what you are selling going to make the lives of their target audience better? The same principle applies to speaking to your company’s followers on social media. The goal is to achieve engagement and interaction with your brand. In order to do this, you need to think like your social media followers and know what content will add value to their lives. So here you are selling ‘value’, which has the potential to convert into a hard sale down the line. Another example is stakeholder communication. Different stakeholders will have different needs, and how you communicate or ‘sell’ yourself to them should come from a ‘how can I serve you’ approach.
This all boils down to simple sales 101 techniques. If you can harness the skill of understanding how to fill a gap with what you are selling and be authentic while doing it, you’re on your way to being heard.
The challenge I find a lot of companies have with getting this right, is that they are too preoccupied with pushing their own corporate messaging, thinking only of what they want to say without considering what their audience need. This can easily be rectified by taking a moment to fully comprehend a PR sell. A PR sell is subtle, authentic, customised and considered. In the media landscape, it mostly operates in an earned space not an advertising space – ‘earned’ being the operative word. Remember, nobody owes you anything, you have to earn the right to be heard, and this comes from selling your company’s brand and story with thoughtful consideration of those receiving your message.
Here are my top tips to help you think like a salesperson when communicating your PR message to your audience:
Know the difference between a hard sell and a PR sell: this is where the art of communication really comes in. When selling your companies image, reputation, core values and expertise, you are not selling the benefits of your company’s products or services. That would require a different ‘harder’ sell and approach. A PR sell considers nuance, authenticity and communicating with honesty and intention.
Customise your content to suit your audience: one size never fits all in this game. Segment your content and messaging to speak to your various target audiences. Do not fall into the trap of simplifying your audience by grouping them all under one umbrella. Trust me, while they may ‘appear’ to be similar, they are not. Customising content is more work than creating generic content, but it’s worth it.
Ask yourself why anyone should care: people are busier than ever and are constantly bombarded with brands competing for their attention. To avoid being dismissed as just another ‘sale’ ask yourself why the recipient of your message should care about what you are saying. And they will only care if what you are offering can truly make their lives easier, add unmatched value or help them achieve their objective.
Be flexible and adjust your sell: getting the desired results can sometimes take longer than you’d like. The best way to seal the deal is to assess why something might not be working and adjust accordingly. Learn from the challenges and see them as an opportunity to gain further insight into what your audience really want and need.