6 Ways PR People are Like Salespeople

By Scott Signore

I once told a young family member of mine to learn to sell, because “you’re always selling something to someone.” Like I’m doing now, trying to get you interested in whatever I’m going to type below. For years I’ve thought that sales should be a higher-profile topic at colleges and universities as the bulk of graduates will try to secure the interest of – and the associated commitment related to – something, sometime in their career. Some professionals will sell on a daily basis, while others only occasionally have the need to close a deal. Most professionals, sometime or another, will need to sell. And, that’s true in spades for PR people.

Here are six ways that PR people are like sales people:

First, in most cases a PR initiative begins with basic information and a general intent to bring a product, service or even an idea to market, and PR people work to craft a pitch that will resonate with the reporters, editors, bloggers and others who will communicate directly with the identified key audience. As part of the process of identifying business objectives, PR and communications professionals need to take the content available at the onset of the project and craft what is, in essence, a sales pitch that will yield results – and that process is hugely important.

Second, no matter the specific pitch (or particular project) PR people work with a prospect list. It may be the list of media who could, perhaps, bite on the editorial pitch, or a list of publications or bloggers deemed a priority by the client. In any case, it’s the list of media targeted by the PR professional.

Third, PR people need to sell their creative ideas to their client in advance of execution. With any luck, the creative idea makes so much sense that minimal persuasion is necessary. In most cases, however, a good PR person has to develop his or her case for why a particular idea is strategic and aligned with business goal – and get the OK from the client before execution. Yep, sales again.

Fourth, PR people need to sell the value of PR to partners and other third-party organizations whose involvement in a case study, press release or interview may be extremely helpful to a client’s initiative. They may not entirely “get” it, but their respective buy-in is hugely important. The partner’s involvement may be the difference between carrying a credible story to market or not, so you need get their agreement to make your story stronger. How do you do that? You sell.

Fifth, agency-side PR people need to pitch their agency as part of the employee recruitment process. Particularly in today’s competitive recruiting world, PR people are asked to contribute to recruiting success by meeting with prospective employees and persuading the prospect to consider joining their team rather than taking an alternate professional path. If you’re a solid PR pro, we’d love to hear from you, since our firm (a “Best Place to Work,”) is hiring. See what I did there?

Finally, agency-side PR people need to pitch. They need to be part of a pitch team that shows the agency’s success and expertise in a smart and strategic way. They need to be inspirational and persuasive while being polite. They need to be smart and savvy, while not appearing smug. They need to be the very best PR people in their day job, and they need to sell their skills when called upon to help their agency thrive.

What am I missing? What are other ways that PR people are like sales people?