You made news…but can you deliver news?

Using PR to support the sales process.

You’ve just broken through…three articles in rapid succession: a couple of paragraphs in a product round-up, a quote in a national newspaper, one of your customers is profiled in a prominent trade publication attesting to the value of your product/service. 
 
 Great stuff. Your agency is doing its job, opening and walking you through all the right doors. Your name is getting out there…people are starting to take notice…and the phone is ringing off the hook. The phone is absolutely ringing off the hook. The phone is supposed to be ringing off the hook. I thought the phone was supposed to ring off the hook. Why isn’t the phone ringing off the hook? Associates and business partners have called…you’ve received interest from prospects…and have had to field the occasional call from a vendor hawking his wares. 
 
But the phone is not ringing off the hook — nor is it buzzing in your pocket. Which is not to say it doesn’t happen. A glowing feature appearing in an important, widely-read publication will keep the front office hopping. But a flurry of placements — not to mention isolated stories — will not, by themselves, instantaneously throw open the floodgates. Of course all it takes is the right call from the right person or the right calls from the right people and the exposure generates a huge return. But it’s not prudent — or advisable — to view article placement, or a surge in new Twitter followers, as an end in itself. 
 
 In an ideal world, our target audience always subscribes to the publications in which we obtain coverage, reads our article or blog or catches our Tweets and understands and accepts the key messages, and remembers them indefinitely. However, the real world is a much different place. Our target audience is bombarded with messages from a multitude of companies across multiple media outlets. They often skim and don’t read, and quite often can’t remember where they saw an advertisement or article.
 
 What is key to success — defining success as public relation’s (PR’s) relationship to sales — is using the fruits of your PR initiatives, i.e., the articles that have appeared , as sales tools. Because third-party validation of your company, your product, and or services — which is precisely what PR boils down to — is the most credible sales tool there is.

Passive vs. “Actionable” PR
 
 Passive PR looks a lot like the scenario described above: waiting for prospects or customers to take action based on an article they’ve just read. While this is the ideal and it does happen, taking an active approach dramatically amplifies and extends your initial exposure. The following examples show how this can be achieved:

  • Make sure to add each article to your Web site — which, ideally, has a section dedicated to news. Also, add the publication’s logo, which can be easily copied from their Web site. This draws attention and adds the publication’s imprimatur to the story.
  • Excerpt the article or extract your quote, frame it in an e-mail and distribute it to your list of prospects and customers.
  • Order reprints and include these in sales kits (get the digital version and offer it as a downloadable or via email).
  • A published article with your byline can easily be repurposed into a White Paper that can have a life of its own…allowing you to extract further value from the initial writing and placement.
  • Always distribute/amplify through social media — –once an article appears, get into the habit of “parceling” it out through Twitter and Linkedin (Facebook and Instagram if you use those platforms in your marketing mix). One feature article can be carved up into several days worth of tweets, enabling you to reach more people and sustain the impact. Any feedback can, in turn, be retweeted and rebroadcast.

Even if a given article sparks a surge in sales interest, these activities should be followed consistently. Naturally, not every article or mention warrants an e-mail blast or is worthy of reprinting…your marketing and sales team, working hand in glove with its PR agency will determine which articles are worth redistributing and “amplifying.”

Competition for media coverage has gotten more fierce as there are simply more media outlets and media “entrepreneurs” (aka, bloggers) than ever before. This also means that your audience is harder to reach, as it tends to be spread and fragmented across an ever-widening media landscape. Each placement or mention or retweet is hard won — these days, making news is not the same as delivering news…an active approach will extend your reach, maximize your impact, and more robustly support the sales process.