Using Public Relations to Drive Sales
Many small businesses know that public relations can create press opportunities, but some are less clear on if this kind of work drives business. Some think that public relations is more art than science, and find it difficult to connect PR campaigns to direct business results, but this is a myth. Public relations is not only an important lead generation tool but can be an anchor bringing cohesion to all of your business activities. This kind of unity has become even more important during the global pandemic.
Small businesses cannot afford to stop their marketing efforts, even during challenging times, and it’s crucial to optimize your marketing spend. Public relations synchronized with marketing and sales will help you get the most mileage from your communications budget during normal times or even in a disaster.
One of the first steps of lead generation work is to identify who you are trying to reach. You will get better results when you are precise in your targeting efforts. This is even more important during a pandemic when you may be working with a tightened budget. Precision allows you to focus your efforts on the audience that will deliver the greatest return.
A public relations professional can help you develop your audience personas, key messages, and supporting proof points for each customer type. This structure can then be used throughout your organization to tailor your outreach efforts to your audience's interests.
At an early stage of the customer journey, your small business needs to generate awareness, capture attention, and educate potential buyers. Public relations programs can drive brand awareness and equip your target audience with information. For example, your PR team can target publications that your preferred audiences refer to when making buying decisions, to offer commentary, news, or a bylined article on a topic of interest. In times of challenge, topics of interest may also include information that helps your audience navigate the current environment. We have seen that during the pandemic with companies offering tips on sanity practices or how to safely return to work.
One of the most common mistakes small businesses make is viewing public relations as an activity separate from the business as a whole, but you cannot operate a PR program in a silo. An integrated campaign that involves sales, marketing, and public relations, aligned against a common business goal, is the key to success and will drive greater ROI than individual customer acquisition strategies.
Below are two ways you can integrate public relations into your other activities to drive more business.
Collect and use customer data to create a PR and social media campaign that addresses the most common problems or challenges that you solve (from the customers' perspective). You can obtain this data from your sales team, customer feedback forms, or your website analytics. You can also conduct your own survey using tools such as SurveyMonkey. Use these insights to build a communications campaign that will resonate with your target audiences.
You can also take the data points and key learnings and incorporate them into your sales presentations, whether those are done in-person or virtual. Develop a customer case study that illustrates the problem's theme and how one customer solved it with the help of your company, and that information can become an article, points for speaking opportunity, or a visual presentation.
Tell Good Stories
If you create content for a blog or email newsletter, your public relations team can repurpose that content for media outreach. With a few tweaks, this content can become a thought leadership piece for another media outlet or a new angle to secure a media interview. Once the story is published, you can share that story to your social channels, blog, and customer email list.
You can also take the content and create a LinkedIn post that digs a little deeper into the topic. And to get even more mileage, pull quotes or statistics from the content, and use those in your social media content. Anything you write for your site or others should also include your SEO keywords and phrases, to support driving the most traffic to your website.
How To Get It All Done
If you don’t have an in-house marketing team, you can contract with a small agency or independent consultant. For example, Solo PR Pro is a 10-year-old national industry membership group with consultants who work with many small businesses. Outsourcing marketing gives small business owners more time to work on strategic planning and business growth.
Communications consultants can help you clarify your needs and goals (increased revenue, more prospects, higher brand awareness), determine a realistic budget, and identify the right marketing components for your needs (improved sales materials, website launch/update, digital marketing initiatives, content creation, news coverage).
COVID-19 has created greater urgency for customer outreach. Now more than ever it is important to stay the course and be consistent with your marketing efforts. A PR professional can help your small business keep generating leads and remain top of mind for current customers and prospects, and can also help navigate a landscape in which consumers want to know not only what you offer but what your values are.