Can PR drive sales growth and deliver ROI? And if so how do you measure it? In the past, public relations and sales occupied distinct spheres within a company’s business plan. Managing a brand’s reputation and closing sales deals were seen as separate endeavors. Today, however, with a fully digital, multi-channel, 24-hour news cycle tagging marketplace winners and losers in real time, brand awareness and reputation management have intertwined with the sales cycle for both B2B and B2C companies.
How can you leverage this new overlap between PR and sales to boost bottom line growth? We’ve laid out several ways to cross-pollinate your public relations efforts and your sales goals and increase the return on investment across the board.
PR in the Sales Funnel
When it comes to sales and marketing, PR is generally considered a “top of funnel” contributor, showering general brand awareness over a target audience. However, PR’s impact can go much deeper in the buyer’s journey in today’s digitally driven landscape. For example, using PR-generated content to fuel a sales enablement strategy can have a direct and measurable impact on a company’s business and sales growth. Smartly placed news stories, award wins, and speaking opportunities yield valuable pieces of content that can help salespeople move deals forward. Here’s why:
- First, unlike email marketing, PR content doesn’t promote a specific call to action. It tells a story about what you know, not what you sell. It’s not an aggressive sales message; it demonstrates thought leadership. Sharing media coverage is an excellent conversation starter and a way to lay the groundwork with prospects.
- Second, the best salespeople are good storytellers, not product pushers. They want to close the deal, but more importantly, they work to solve their prospects’ problems. Effective PR content is both timely and relevant – it can help answer a prospect’s question, identify trends, provide more information and make comparisons.
- And finally, PR content can boost web traffic and online engagement by generating highly valuable third-party referral traffic to your site.
How Martech and PR Stacks are Used to Measure ROI
Measuring the impact of public relations begins by understanding the influence that brand awareness, reach and digital distribution have on business metrics.
We can measure the effectiveness of PR and marketing campaigns through organic search results, social media results, earned media coverage, inbound web traffic data (and as a corollary, owned media engagement), and even paid media performance. Martech stacks, or layers of marketing technology working together to measure the performance of these metrics, help marketing departments track trends down the sales funnel. Here are a few ways you can use the same tools to measure your PR initiatives and tie them back to business growth:
- Google Analytics: Google’s free platform provides direct and referral traffic data. You can use this tool to track the website traffic that a press release or media campaign (containing backlinks to your company’s website) drives to your website. You can also track the behavior of visitors who arrive at the website via branded content or earned media and compare it to the behavior of visitors who arrive from other sources to build a better profile of each audience you reach.
- Muckrack: Many PR teams turn to solutions like Muckrack for media monitoring and outreach services. These platforms assemble coverage reports that track the scope, breadth and impact of PR campaigns by logging media hits, total impressions, social shares, and can even capture the positive or negative sentiment in a piece of coverage.
- Share of Voice: Most PR people are familiar with the idea of measuring media mentions, impressions and the like. This used to be the defacto way to measure success in PR. But these metrics lack one essential element that keeps your reporting from being board-room worthy. What’s missing? Context. How many times have you presented results to a business unit leader, only to have them ask you what it all means? How do we stack up? To be clear, the c-suite, or any business leader for that matter, is glad you’re measuring results. But they want to know why those numbers matter, and how they compare to your competitors. You can do this by monitoring your brand’s Share of Voice metric, which compares the quantity and quality of brand mentions across different channels (such as news sites, social media, blogs and online forums) to the number of mentions your competitors are getting. In doing so, you obtain a solid measure of brand awareness that has context and can be used for future decision-making.
- Social Measurement: Many social media platforms make reporting on the ROI of PR simple and straightforward. Each piece of content your brand earns, buys, creates or generates through a sales win can be published to social platforms and promoted among target audiences. The impact of this content can be measured through metrics like impressions, engagements, comments, as well as click-throughs.
Maximize PR Content and Sales Materials
If PR and sales still occupy different islands in your business world, content may be the bridge between the two. In one direction, content from PR drives sales growth. Media hits, thought leadership pieces, speaking engagements, award wins and, increasingly, social media presence build brand awareness and credibility. PR content can also create a narrative around a brand’s products and culture. Brand awareness generates leads; brand trust catalyzes buying decisions.
But the bridge may be crossed in the other direction, too. Just as PR content can be used to drive sales growth, sales material can be transformed into PR content. Knowing how to maximize and cross-pollinate your content from both public relations and sales streams allows your brand to stay omni-present in a market where visibility is key.
Take a Campaign Approach
We do this by taking a campaign approach. An integrated marketing and PR campaign sets a clear objective and then uses every level of brand and product messaging to create a whole series of PR, marketing and sales assets, from a press release to blogs, social posts, thought leadership pieces and more without having to reinvent the wheel with each new piece of content.
While measuring the performance of PR endeavors against sales numbers is rarely a 1:1 comparison, the ROI of PR can be demonstrated in numerous ways that directly influence buyer behavior at nearly every point in the sales funnel. With a greater share of commerce taking place online, the incentive for maintaining brand visibility and reputation across the digital media ecosystem is more important than ever. PR wins can be leveraged as sales enablement and sales trends can become the focus of the next PR campaign. Working across departments allows your PR team and salespeople to generate more content to boost brand performance and bottom-line figures simultaneously.