It has been a hectic week. What, with the long-awaited introduction of bond notes into the Zimbabwe economy, the temptation was to write about this interesting phenomenon.
public relations with Lenox Mhlanga
Yet I have decided to let it simmer for a while.
There is so much noise in both traditional and social media, as well as political-economic circles. I have my strong reservations, particularly in as far as the communications surrounding the bond notes is concerned. That I will leave for a later day after having consulted widely.
A lot of companies believe that public relations (PR), marketing and sales are just that. Never shall they meet. How wrong this approach is! They don’t realise the disservice that this does to the employees and of course, the bottom line.
From time immemorial, public relations and sales have always clashed, but it doesn’t have to be that way. When the two departments maintain a close, transparent relationship, everyone is a winner.
At the tyre making company I served as communications manager, I learnt that strong customer relationships were built through PR helping to drive sales. They ensured that PR was involved in sales meetings where strategies were formulated. My team also handled customer events.
To achieve long-term customer loyalty, you must maintain trust. This was one of the powerful lessons I was exposed to. That the stronger the relationship, the longer the customer will continue to do business with you.
We know in PR that building relationships takes time, and it should be buttressed by a robust communication strategy. Such a strategy involves the emphasis on benefits over features and the right channels through which to solicit customer feedback. When customers feel they are an integral part of the company, the job of the sales team is made easier.
PR is a powerful way of enhancing a brand’s credibility in the eyes of prospects and customers. And once that credibility is achieved, it is very difficult for competitors to overcome.
In any marketing strategy, promotions provide a much-needed boost to sales. PR provides the necessary cover for such a role, though not the only one. PR creates promotional material through the content customers need, and delivered appropriately and timely to assist sales in putting a foot in the door, or even help open it.
This creates brand ambassadors for your products, who through testimonies and word-of-mouth marketing make it is easy to close sales. PR does the ground work. This helps to distinguish you from the competition. When you make sales calls, prospective customers welcome your messages — and you close sales.
PR generates earned media that add value to the sales process. It is good at creating awareness and not necessarily conversions that are the job of sales.
Nowadays customers are unpredictable. It is more difficult to capture and control the buyer. They have become more independent when making buying decisions. This is coupled with increased stimuli that target visual and auditory senses.
Customers are bombarded with content and messaging vying for their attention and to influence their buying decisions. Studies show that potential customers find three pieces of content on their own for every piece one creates.
Therefore, generating earned media in the form of news coverage and other third-party sources, which is PR territory, not only acts as external endorsement for your brand, it also serves as a boost for sales. As we have noted, getting in the news regularly (for good reason and not bad) acts as a psychological foot in the door in the minds of prospective customers.
Strategic PR involves the use of research and measurement tools that help determine ideal customers for more efficient generation of sales leads.
PR provides the appropriate survey tools and assessment techniques to be able to create accurate profiles of your company’s ideal customer. This saves the sales team from chasing after the wrong prospects that could be a waste of valuable time and money.
Lisa Goldsberry of Axia Public Relations suggests three ways you can get your PR and sales operations working together.
The first is to break down the walls. When everyone is working in their own secret silo, it increases the likelihood of duplicate efforts and misunderstanding. Get the teams together for open and honest dialogue.
Secondly, create consistent communication channels. When information is shared on a regular basis, everyone will be better able to see the bigger picture. Establish a system for a continuous flow of information.
Last, but certainly not the least, is to hire a PR firm to help you. When the PR and sales teams are constantly at odds, bringing in an outside, unbiased voice could be the answer.
You need someone to listen to all sides and develop a cohesive plan for a mutually supportive operation without internal politics, personalities and past experiences getting in the way.
The one way public relations cannot help sales is if the product is so flawed that no amount of awareness will help improve sales. This is a failure of product development and strategy, not of demand generation.
Be sure your product is in top shape before committing resources towards public relations. PR has proven time and again, that you cannot put lipstick on a frog.
l Lenox Mhlanga is an associate consultant with Magna Carta Reputation Management Consultants, the African PR Consultancy of the Year in 2016. He has worked for the World Bank as a communication specialist and is a part-time PR lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology. Email: email@example.com Mobile: +263 72 400 656.