In almost every conversation I have with prospective clients, I’m asked, “How many sales can I expect from this campaign?”
Or I’m told, “I’ll know you’re successful when I see a big jump in sales.”
That’s an expectation PR professionals are used to hearing; it comes from the biggest boardrooms and the smallest mom-and-pop shops. But the value of public relations – using communications to gain visibility and credibility and to develop a positive, trustworthy public image – can’t be measured in sales. Not directly, anyway, and not immediately.
So why bother?
Because it builds the trust and reputation that attracts new customers and facilitates sales. It’s the reason huge corporations with well-established household names continue to invest in it. I like the story about Starbucks from a few years ago: During the holiday season, the coffee giant had its representatives drive around with replicas of Starbucks cups attached to their car roofs. People who stopped the drivers to warn them about the cup on their roof got a $5 gift card to Starbucks.
It was great, image-building publicity. Encouraging people to be good Samaritans earned Starbucks lots of huggability points!
Here are a few more ways PR helps drive sales.
- Consumers are sophisticated and increasingly selective about with whom they choose to do business. In decades past, they made purchases mostly based on what they’d heard about a product’s or service’s quality; its price; convenience; the image it conveyed. Today all of those factors may go into a purchase decision along with others that have little to do with the actual product or service: Is the company environmentally friendly? Is it a good citizen? Does it have a shady background? How does it treat its workers? How do its vendors treat their workers? Publicity can answer all those questions – and in a much more believable way than advertising.
- Consumers now have a world of information at their fingertips and they use it! According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 72 percent of American online shoppers – and 69 percent of those globally – consider themselves “confident” or “expert” in researching their purchases online. They read up on and evaluate businesses, products and services before they buy, whether it’s a big purchase or a small one. When asked about what made certain stores their favorites, 59 percent said “trust.”
- They develop that trust, in part, by reading what’s been written and said about you and your business – and paying attention to who’s writing or saying it. If you’ve done a good job with your public relations efforts, they’ll see you quoted as an expert in articles and blogs, maybe see clips from TV interviews or hear radio podcasts. They’ll see that the media are essentially endorsing you by turning to you as a trusted news source.
- Post your publicity on your website and in your marketing materials and share it on your social media networks, and it will continue to influence prospective customers. Getting and sharing publicity helps keep you in the public eye and ensures you get the maximum benefit of every article and interview.
Is it possible to quantify the success of your public relations?
Look at the number of people you’re reaching. If you’re getting great visibility, your PR is working for you.
Look at the quality of the press you’re getting. Being quoted on legitimate, authoritative news sites can help you in countless ways, from boosting your website in search engine results to establishing an authoritative presence.
Pay attention to where your new leads are coming from. Did they read about you in an article, hear you on the radio or see you on TV? Sometimes even a vague, “I can’t remember how I heard about you,” can be the work of great PR.
As I tell every prospective client who asks, “What can I expect to see in sales?” – don’t hire us, or any PR firm, if you’re planning to make your investment back in immediate sales. You likely won’t. Rather, do it to become a competitive force in the marketplace.
To your success!