Public relations and sales are often two essential arms of an organisation; one directly drives up revenue, the other maintains a reputation people want to invest in. Whilst they may be situated in different departments, the skills and work behind both PR and sales may not always be so distinct from one another.
In this piece, I look at three key similarities contrasted with three differences between the two fields, looking at where they converge.
The key to both sales and PR can be a successful pitch; whether you’re trying to move a new product, or get a story into the papers, the pitch you are presenting has to be on point. In sales, often you’re taught about an elevator pitch – a 30 second memorable summary that sells your product/services. The important aspects of this (being short and noteworthy) also apply to PR, as if your pitch is too long or does not have enough weight behind it, it’s unlikely to be picked up by a journalist. We’re happy to share more of our secrets on putting together a successful pitch!
Manage that pipeline
Something that surprised me the most when moving to PR was how important it is to manage your pipeline, just like in sales. When you’re selling, it’s not just the immediate targets you have to be concerned about, but future and upcoming ones too. You’ve always got to keep little pots of opportunity brewing, somewhere you may be able to or have to pull from in the future. Managing your PR pipeline works in a similar fashion – because pieces of coverage do not just appear immediately, and often take time to develop. Making sure you have various opportunities on the go is the key to always ensuring great coverage. Having 100 hits one month might be great, but if that’s followed by months of nothing, then you’re probably not managing your pipeline correctly.
We’ve worked with schools across the world, so managing our pipeline ensures that we secure amazing coverage for all our clients.
The key to any people - or client-facing industry, is being able to manage your relationships with different stakeholders and, whether sales or PR, this leads to better performance. People buy from people, and if you’re trying to sell to a customer or pitch to a journalist, having good relationship management will make people more likely to react positively when your name pops up on their phone or in their inbox.
When working with top-tier media, the Financial Times for example, managing the relationships with journalists is crucial as we want to be able to gain coverage in the publication in the future also, just like a salesperson will look to maintain relationship with clients for future sales also.
Unlike sales, with PR it’s not just clients or stakeholders you’ve got to manage but the journalist too. You will be pitching to journalists and making sure your client is confident in the results you bring in, and the relationship will be different for both but equally as important. Long-term relationship management is crucial for sales no doubt, but for most salespeople it will be focussed on their customers solely.
When we spoke to one of our clients, Nyenrode Business University, on our relationship with them we were very pleased that “Working with BlueSky doesn’t feel like working with an agency, but feels more like working with your own colleagues without losing their professionality!”. Great relationship management!
Consultants not salespeople
The relationship with stakeholders / clients in PR, for example, involves more consulting than selling. When we work with our university and business school partners, we offer expert consulting on which outlets are aligned with their strategic goals.
For example, many clients have come to use wanting to promote one of their particular courses. The go-to we often hear is a pitch on the programme as a whole, which isn’t always the best way to attract attention. When we work with programme promotion, we provide a space to promote programmes through faculty and students, positioning the former especially as thought and industry leaders. Take a look at some coverage here!
Easily measured vs innumerable
Of course, one of the biggest differences between sales and PR is how we measure its value. For a sales professional, the numbers they are bringing in will be indicative of how successful they are, but because PR isn’t always to simply generate revenue directly, it’s adding to it through reputation building, brand awareness, etc., it can be a little harder to measure. Sometimes in PR we talk about Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) as measuring how much coverage would have cost if an advertisement slot had been bought, but strategic aims may not work with this model nor does it factor in other crucial elements like how PR is more influential than adverts and social media engagement. In fact, the CIPR says not to use AVE at all. Instead, we tend to look at press hits, social media engagement and media impressions, (or seek feedback from schools we work with, e.g. on how numbers of applicants have increased due to PR, etc.) but also consider the type of coverage our clients are receiving relative to their goals.
So, whilst sales and PR may share some common skills, there are important aspects of the job that separate the salesperson from the consultant
If you’re looking to take advantage of our PR consultancy services get in contact now!
Having studied at top institutions including Sciences Po, City University of Hong Kong, Oxford Brookes University, KIMEP University and having completed his Masters at the University of St Andrews, Alex’s insider knowledge means that he genuinely understands the inner workings of universities and higher education institutions. Alex has won awards for his academic writing and is fluent in both English and French, and proficient in Spanish.