PR & Sales: A Pairing that can Add Up in a Big Way

by Dean S. Goldman, president, Goldman & Associates Public Relations

It is telling that PR Week, the influential weekly magazine of the public relations industry,  devoted a large story to why salespeople are “sold on PR.” The point of the article was that when public relations people work with salespeople, the results can resonate very strongly with new business prospects and customers. The outcome of this collaboration is bottom-line results.

While at first glance, the pairing of PR and sales may not seem like a natural, it does make sense. Salespeople know their products and services inside and out and they have a good idea what their customers’ needs are; public relations people know how to effectively communicate in different media and create events that can enhance selling opportunities and the company’s reputation.

When Felicia Blow, director of public relations and marketing for the Southeastern Public Service Authority (SPSA), launched a new document destruction service called SPSA Shred, she made public relations a major component in its marketing plan. Blow says she did so because PR “is more believable, has more tools, and more resources to bring added awareness to our service than typical advertising tools.”

According to Blow, “Public relations helps consumers evaluate the service and make a decision. If they’ve been presented the facts and made an educated decision to use the service, they’re more loyal and thus especially valuable as customers.”

Blow tapped our firm to handle public relations for the program and we worked closely with SPSA Shred’s sales staff on the endeavor. Our team, comprised of SPSA Shred sales reps and our PR associates, realized that the rapidly growing crime of identity theft and upcoming changes to the HIPAA laws — which required companies to more carefully monitor private consumer information — could be timely catalysts to give SPSA rapid credibility and a marketing advantage over its competitors.

Reasoning that a wide variety of businesses and organizations were affected by these issues, the main tactic we developed out of the collaborative effort was an informational seminar titled “Identity Theft, Industrial Espionage, Forgery, and HIPAA: Managing Confidential Business and Personal Documents.” We recruited speakers that offered a special knowledge of these issues, including Virginia State Police, attorneys, a top state government representative, and a private industry specialist. All spoke on the many facets of the problem and offered concrete solutions. In particular, the speakers reiterated the importance of careful and timely document destruction.

Special attention was given to who was invited. Our team screened the invitation list by calling all prospects to gauge their interest and determine what particular issues might be of concern. Special care was taken to insure that organizations’ decision-makers on document handling and destruction were invited and encouraged to attend. Although time-consuming, this effort proved crucial to the success on the event, for which about a thousand invitations were mailed.

As the sponsor of the seminar, SPSA Shred was prominently promoted at the event with signs and literature. Those who attended turned out to be highly interested in the subject, found the information useful, and were excellent prospects for SPSA Shred.

“Our awareness went through the roof,” says Blow. “We got business, leads, and a foot in the door where we couldn’t before. We were catapulted into the document destruction arena where we became experts. Suddenly, we were viable contenders in a new field where we had not been before.”

Blow says this success reinforced her belief in linking public relations and sales.

“We could not have garnered the same results with the same budget by advertising,” she said. “And our awareness was sustained – in other words, people really remembered us.”

Any salesperson will tell you that reputation, credibility, and awareness drive sales. Someone can always offer a lower price, but a better value proposition will always win in the end. Public relations strategies create sustained value and instinctively, salespeople understand this.

Salespeople and public relations people are specialists at communicating the organization’s value message. Having them work together is a simple, and at times overlooked, strategy that makes for powerful marketing.