This article originally appeared on the PRCA's blog at: https://www.prca.org.uk/B2B-PR-as-a-Sales-Tool
There’s an old saying in PR circles: ‘Advertising is what you pay for; publicity is what you pray for.”
Why? Because earned media isn’t something that can be easily influenced, which means it generates credibility, reach, endorsement, animation and trust- all powerful tools for B2B sales teams looking to convince buyers to invest.
Right now, B2B sales pros have never had it harder. Buying cycles are becoming more complex and less predictable, while decision-makers are becoming harder to identify and increasingly expensive to target. That’s why a timely, third-party independent endorsement in earned media can make a significant difference.
Going beyond lead generation
Driving awareness, providing air cover and playing a role at the top of the funnel is where PR is most commonly associated. However, by limiting the role of PR to these areas, B2B brands and sales teams are missing a trick.
In the world of B2B PR, earned media is fundamentally a sales tool; providing the ammunition Sales teams need not just to drive awareness, but ultimately to help close deals.
To maximise PR’s ability to support business growth involves two simple shifts:
Talk to Sales
The first is ensuring direct communication with Sales teams.
In the worst cases today, PR Pros don’t talk to Sales teams and Sales teams don’t talk to PR Pros, which is a terrible shame and a waste. Both disciplines have a great deal in common in that they are engineering support from third parties for the business. Sales and PR can learn from each other and also benefit from each other’s work. The most common area for this is when PR Pros asks for a case study, which is great for the PR team but probably a bit of a hassle for the Salesperson.
In order to be of value to Sales, PR Pros need to understand what Sales is up against and create earned media campaigns that respond to the challenges of a specific market. This might be about building trust through awards and endorsements and credibility through thought-leadership and commentary, simply by creating opportunities to re-connect with prospects through news. Earned media is highly versatile as a tool and can serve many different purposes when directed to do so.
A first step is to use Sales’ expertise to gain a greater understanding of the target audience. With answers to the important customer-centric questions - ‘What are their problems?’, ‘Where do they get their information?’, ‘What do they need to know?’ – it becomes a lot easier to put the right pieces in the right places. It’s also important to make it easy for sales to share the coverage that is created.
Another vital ingredient is meaningful measurement.
Metrics like share of voice, message delivery, and volume of clippings can provide a certain amount of information. But if PR professionals can go beyond this and find out what’s really working, then it becomes easier to establish successful, repeatable processes.
One way to gain these insights is by asking the right questions of sales teams. Questions like, ‘Was this piece shared—and how?’, ‘What was the result?’, and ‘How can we do better?’, can provide a fuller picture of the impact earned media can have on a buyer’s decision.
With answers to these questions, PR teams can create a valuable feedback loop to help improve processes and encourage sales teams to use the output of their work to help meet their goals. The result: everyone benefits.