How PR pros close the sale

After mastering the ins and outs of media relations, writing and crisis communications, communicators must finally be able to sell their services to clients. Here’s how.

This article originally appeared on PR Daily in November of 2017.

Public relations professionals know their craft.

They excel at writing brilliant press releases and op-eds. They deliver to radio and television producers the perfect guest at the proper time—every time. They succeed at managing their organization’s personnel, time and resources.

None of it matters, though, if nobody buys their products and services.

How does one go about selling them? Here are some PR pros in different specializations willing to weigh in on their preferred methods for making the sale.

Identify what a client wants.

Rather than selling a product, identify an unfulfilled desire. Potential clients need to know whether a PR professional can draw more business to their brand.

Dunn Pellier Media, Inc., which specializes in the health industry, invites customers to respond to a questionnaire on the agency’s website.

“We want to determine if they are a good fit for us first,” says Nicole Dunn, CEO of Dunn Pellier. “Will they interface well with our philosophy and our values for what a great health brand is in today’s marketplace? If they fit, we schedule a call to discuss their PR goals.”

J. Mark Riggs, senior vice president with MWWPR, says his firm annually brainstorms for leads on prospective clients.

“If we have something of interest that can make that person better at their job, or help their brands do more business, etc., we will reach out very informally and make the ask,” Riggs says. “We are not telling them how great it is to work with us. We are showing them the benefit of working with us.”

Educate clients on PR’s value.

Many businesses of all sizes—from start-ups to established corporations—are new to the concept of PR and require an education on the benefits of investing in it.

“It’s our job as public relations experts to educate about the increased value of PR due to the third-party endorsement factor,” says Brittany Larsen, director of PR with The Summit Group in Salt Lake City. “When a message is shared in an advertisement, the value is in the control factor, but with PR, the value comes from your message being shared under a third-party masthead for a much lower cost.”

Chris Gray with Digital Gray in Birmingham, Ala. remarks that he often introduces small- and mid-sized business owners to the concept of PR for the first time, especially the significant impact of digital publicity on search engine optimization.

“Many business owners are amazed that any local or national news outlets would be interested in anything they were doing, and especially that their story might be the ideal fit for an editor or producer,” Gray says.

Share your data.

Experienced PR experts know that customers demand proof of how a media investment affects their bottom line.

Spouting vague jargon like “awareness,” “engagement” or “brand equity” rings hollow to those who devote scarce resources to public relations efforts, according to Michelle Barry with Mesmerize Media. Nor do they necessarily need to use platforms costing tens of thousands of dollars like Cision or Sysomos.

“Even if you don’t have the budget, there are tools that can map out spikes in web traffic to a blog on a client’s site, for example, using tools like Google Analytics,” Barry says. “They can measure which social posts were shared the most using Facebook and Twitter’s insights tools, or use a paid service such as TrendKite or Hootsuite.”

Rely on referrals.

What doesn’t work, according to MWWPR’s Riggs? Cold calling.

“How many calls from vendors do you get or cold calls at home that you just do not answer, or just hang up on?” he says. “We do not want those with whom we build relationships to feel that way. We want to be partners, not vendors. Again, we have to go to them with something of substance and value.”

He argues that the work should speak for itself.

“Focus on what you’re good at and personalize your approach. If you do great work, then you will get more work—organically and via reputation.”

David Yonkman is a former Washington Correspondent for Newsmax, Capitol Hill Communications Director and the founding principal of DYS Media, LLC. Connect on twitter @DavidYonkman.

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