By Chris Field, Founder and Managing Director of Fieldworks Marketing and online community Fieldworks Connections.
PR will survive by remembering that it is a part of marketing.
PR has had it too good for too long and the glory days when agencies were making lots of money for delivering not too much are gone. Or at least that’s how my clients see it. As an ex-journalist I had no time for PR people – that much is a familiar scenario.
Now that I am running a marketing business, I actually have great respect for PR, but it is going to have to work a lot harder in the sales and marketing process if it expects to survive.
Traditionally, or still as is the case for most PR companies, the process begins and ends with press coverage.
That’s fine if all you want from PR is to feel good about yourself, and hope that readers will have a similar reaction, but how often does a sales prospect actually call up the company to say, “I’ve just read about you in the Daily Blah and I think we should be talking.” It happens but does it happen often enough to justify monthly retainer fees which can be as much as £15,000 a month.
More and more companies are saying, “I need more proof that PR is working for me, helping me generate higher incremental income as well as new new business.”
PR is also up against the fact that marketing, as ever in tough times, is under pressure; it always has been and always will be discretionary spend and if times are hard, marketing will always suffer.
If PR companies are to continue flourishing they need to work closer with sales and marketing, providing PR as part of integrated campaigns that show a clear ROI.
Here are my top tips to integrating your PR strategy:
1. Combine PR, marketing and sales
PR is a powerful tool but it has to be more tightly integrated with sales and marketing – the typically separate teams need to work closely together and communicate. Too many companies do PR, sales and marketing separately, not least because most sales people have no time for either PR or marketing. Bring them together and look what happens.
2. Maximise press coverage
The message is that feed PR should be used to generate press coverage but it should not stop there. The resulting press coverage should be used in the sales and marketing process, to fuel campaigns.
An example is, if the initial press release is a major customer win, the same material should be used to drive direct and emarketing, followed by telesales driving prospects to either a sales call, a web visit or something of greater value, such as an invitation to an event, or the chance to see some research.
The initial buy-in from the customer who has signed off the press release, should then be exploited, where they are willing, to get involved in videos, podcasts, speaking opportunities, awards and site visits.
3. PR should be part of quantifiable marketing
Then the sales team will understand and value - provided of course the leads have been qualified from a decent database in the first place. Sales can, and probably always will, complain that they don’t need or understand marketing but when I see an integrated marketing campaign well executed, I am happy to say to sales, if you don’t want the leads, I’ll go out and pitch it myself.
4. Community websites
I think this is where marketing is going; back to its roots, but taking advantage of its various components in a more tightly integrated way and using the internet to, in some cases, bypass mainstream media and create new communities. Now, this is where it gets a bit controversial. I’m not advocating that companies become media owners; or maybe I am.
The Internet is the perfect medium for news, networking, content dissemination and feedback that companies can complement their mainstream media activities with their own community web sites. And PR is the perfect owner for managing this because it is generating the content.
This approach has given me the confidence to successfully sell what I once regarded as nothing more than a nuisance. PR will survive and thrive but it has to work a lot harder.
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