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
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
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
“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.”
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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
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
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.