Media relations is an area where sales and marketing have different expectations. Sales, not really understanding how PR works, see it as a key activity in ‘opening doors’ for them. It’s much easier to get an appointment when a prospect has recently heard of the company in the news or blogosphere.
The disconnect between sales and marketing happens on two fronts. The first is that Sales wants media coverage that praises the product. For emerging companies with customers reluctant to talk to the media, that is a difficult accomplishment. To counter this, innovative marketing organizations engage in progressive, push-the-envelope strategic PR. Done correctly, this delivers coverage and builds a strong market reputation. However, this produces the second disconnect; Sales has no idea how to leverage strategic PR and is often afraid of the resulting coverage. And that is a problem.
I’m not going to get into a discourse of what strategic PR is. Suffice it to say that it is a media strategy by which a company jumps on the coattails of an emerging, hot industry story and uses it as a platform to communicate its value proposition. The resulting coverage often isn’t about the company or its product but rather quotes the company as a thought leader, expert, etc. Done right, the company is often the only vendor in its market category to be quoted. A string of this kind of coverage is sweet.
Strong salespeople of the hunter breed know how to assemble media coverage and connect the dots for their prospects. They paint a picture of the company’s expertise and tell a story of how the media wouldn’t include company comments if the company wasn’t credible. In my experience that’s about 10% of all sales people. The other 90% either ignore this type of coverage or, worse, ring the bell of alarm.
For that 90% group, not leveraging strategic PR is a lost sales opportunity. If you can’t ‘connect the dots’ for the prospect, at least use the coverage to engage the prospect in a conversation of ‘what do you think about XYZ market development?’
Frequently management and marketing shy away from strategic PR because it’s unconventional. Yet it might be the only avenue available to them. I say ‘go for it’, but do get off your duff and help sales understand how to use this type of coverage.