If the title of this article caught you off guard, then you should definitely continue reading. The idea of hiring a public relations team to help gain visibility for your brand or business can be exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. You’re excited to bring your vision to fruition and start sharing it with the masses, yet at the same time, it can feel like you’re spending money before you’ve really even started to make money. That’s totally understandable. Hiring a PR agency straight away may not be a great fit for every brand or business, especially when you’re just starting out. A legitimate agency will be honest with you when the timing or need is simply not there. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t revisit things later, but if it’s not a good fit for both sides from the beginning, no use in wasting your time, energy or worse - money.
That said, it’s also important for new business owners to have realistic expectations in regards to what strong PR efforts will actually help them to achieve. What are your goals for the next six months, the next year? Start there and reverse engineer the process. Oftentimes, a PR agency can play an integral role in helping you achieve these goals, but it’s important to understand what a PR agency does and doesn’t do. One thing a PR agency can not, and should not guarantee, is sales.
Simply put, public relations is the art of gaining visibility and credibility for your brand or business.
Getting your brand name in front of the right audience is key to increasing sales. The right audience is the one that resonates most with your product or service and will likely be interested enough to buy, right? Sure. In terms of a sales funnel, PR efforts would be at the top of the funnel. So, if no one knows you exist, then how could they possibly buy? That said, public relations professionals can lead a horse to water, but they are not sales associates.
Quick story time:
Years ago, we had a client who put all of his eggs in one basket to develop a very niche product. He had a very nice website that had been built out by another agency, and even though everything had been done correctly in terms of SEO, new websites do take some time to properly index with Google. Not to mention, at the time we started working together, he had zero backlinks to help boost domain authority (something PR can help with). With a nice product and a nice website, he thought all he needed was a PR agency to help bring in sales. Literally 24 hours after his website went live, he was calling and demanding to know why he hadn’t had any sales yet. LITERALLY - 24 hours. You can’t make this stuff up.
So, it was advised that if immediate sales was what he was after, he might want to consider hiring an outside sales rep to push his product up and down the west coast. This particular product was a perfect fit for high-end restaurants and even stadiums and event companies. A full-time sales rep would be able to take meetings with restaurants like maybe, Nobu in Malibu, or secure contracts with the Los Angeles Coliseum, or even the Hollywood Bowl by pitching the product as the perfect addition to their establishment. He also might have connected with wedding vendors and event planning companies to have them bring the product in; securing major wholesale deals. These were all great ideas, and totally viable options, but they are also outside the scope of work for our PR agency.
What we could do for this client
Is make sure that he gains visibility and credibility by getting the product in front of the right demographic, and garnering praise and reviews for the product. This looks like everything from making sure the brand was capitalizing on at least three major social media platforms, those that are the best fit for his target market, while also sharing it with the media contacts and influencers who would be most likely to actually use the product and share about it. Who’s to say that he might not have gained a major wholesale deal after a vendor saw a feature of the product on The Knot? In addition, having the product mentioned in an article by a major publication, we are able to secure a backlink to the website which boosts it’s ranking in search, but it also directs traffic to the site where they may have a look around, and possibly even buy something. So, are sales likely to increase with PR efforts? Of course! The more people who know about your product, the more likely you are to secure sales, right? Right, so then we need to make sure that folks know you have something for sale.
Another thing to keep in mind
Is that PR professionals have to align their efforts with the current media landscape. This means abiding by media lead times and staying abreast of any major developments. For instance, securing a digital feature will have a much faster turnaround time than seeing your brand or business in print. So, we may be working on a feature for weeks, or even months, before the sum of our efforts hits the news stand. The idea that your website will have a ton of hits, and be raking in the sales 24 hours after going live, is simply unrealistic.
In terms of major developments, we have to taper efforts if something more pressing comes to the forefront. During the summer of 2018, Los Angeles saw one of the worst years on record for wildfires. It was all you saw on the news, and it was the only thing anyone wanted to talk about. While the public is glued to the TV, hearing about how another celebrity’s house burned down, you can be sure that no one is interested in a segment featuring your new product. If there is a way to pivot the angle, and somehow tie your product or service into this current news cycle, or showcase how you’re helping those affected by the wildfires, let’s go for it. Otherwise, it’s simply not a priority at the moment, and we have to respect that.
For optimal PR results
The examples above are exactly why a PR agency should never guarantee sales as a direct result of their efforts. Are increased sales a likely byproduct of public relations? Yes. However, there are plenty of other factors at play when it comes to a brand’s sales funnel. Many of which, a PR agency simply will not have a hand in. For any brand or business looking to work with a PR agency, the goal should always be increased visibility and credibility. After all, if no one knows your product or service even exists, you’re definitely not going to increase sales anytime soon, right?