When you hear the word PR, what is the first thing you think of?
Is it significant companies trying desperately to cover up an oil spill? Is it brands doing absurd tricks to gain attention? Is it spin instructors trying to hustle the masses?
Those are all aspects of PR, but they are not the heart and soul of PR. Most business owners and entrepreneurs can’t afford huge publicity stunts, and they certainly don’t want to be on the defensive end of a scandal. You could almost say that most COOs and entrepreneurs treat PR as the business component they know they’re supposed to have, but they never use.
In reality, PR, when properly understood and executed, is a great way to land free coverage for your products and services online, in newspapers, magazines, or on radio and TV.
The problem is, you’re most likely doing it all wrong if you’re even doing it at all!
PR is Sales, Not Marketing
There is one secret to PR that a lot of COOs and other leaders fail to understand and that is this: PR isn’t marketing, it’s sales.
Marketing and communications are very different from PR, but people often substitute one for the other. For instance, just Google, “Best PR Campaigns,” and see what pops up. What you’ll find are hundreds of hits for marketing campaigns that caught the media’s attention. These are big-budget campaigns that are orchestrated by big-cost agencies. Rarely, you’ll find actual PR campaigns that involve free coverage from mainstream media based on a real media pitch.
“Your sales team is out in the field every day getting tremendous feedback and insight into your target market. Why let all that good information remain siloed? Let your sales team help inform the PR strategy by sharing insights, such as what your target market cares about, what they’re reading, and what resonates with them. This might help develop a pitch, drive story angles and even identify new media outlets.” – Forbes
To get the most out of real PR campaigns, you need to approach it and treat it like a sales role. Typically, marketing or communications people are not wired the same way as salespeople are. It takes a salesperson to make true PR work rather than relying on big-budget marketing campaigns. Salespeople are the ones who will manage to sell your media pitch and get free coverage from mainstream media!
Selling the Media
How do the media outlets that you rely on for your PR campaign make money? How do newspapers or magazines make money?
The answer: they make money by selling advertising.
What helps the magazine, newspaper, television show, etc sell advertising? Having lots of readers and viewers. And how do media outlets get lots of readers and viewers? By having quality content that engages their audience. That’s where you come in.
“Rather than relying on passive tools like newswires and press releases, the best PR teams are proactive and treat the PR process as a sales process. That means targeting the right people in the media, crafting your pitch, and making cold calls to sell your story.” – COO Alliance
Securing free PR means talking about your ideas with content producers for magazines, websites, and television programs. You have to sell them on it. Why would they want to listen? Simple: because great content means it’s easier to sell ads, and ad sales mean profit.
So what’s the key to selling the media? Having great content to give them!
The Price is Right
Since PR is a sales function, if you’re in PR, you’re in the business of selling ideas to media outlets. Selling anything is tough, but the advantage is that you are selling these ideas at no charge. The media outlets like things that are free, especially when it could lead to profit on their end (and good PR leads to profit on your end, too).
In other words, the price is right for you and your PR. This one fact should make getting free PR for your organization one of the easiest sales tasks to do, provided you have something interesting to give them.
When you give the media free content, you’re not only gaining exposure for your business but also making it possible for them to make their publications or stations better. You’re helping them make money and you’re helping their staff look good, too. Everybody wins when you treat PR like sales.
Do you treat your PR like sales? What’s your most successful PR campaign? Let us know in the comments below!
If you have questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. Please send us an email, and someone from my team will get in touch with you!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2018 and has been edited for accuracy and comprehensiveness.