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Does Your PR Group Help Make Sales?

If you think of "public relations" as the way that customers perceive a company, there's no question that good PR can grease the wheels. But if you think about "public relations" as the group of people inside the company who are chartered to create that image with the public, I'm afraid the answer is probably that they have very little, if any impact on sales. Please note that I'm telling you this hard truth, even though its vastly in my own interests to keep this observation to myself.

You see, as a reporter and writer, I LOVE LOVE LOVE corporate public relations. Most of the time, they treat me like I'm some sort of star, and they work hard to convince top executives to shoot the bull with me. They dig up information, analyst reports, and sometimes do a significant amount of legwork that makes my job easier. They're great! I love 'em.

But the truth is that, while PR folk are REALLY useful to me (in my role as a journalist), most of what PR folk do is really pretty useless from a sales perspective. There is so much media in the world today, and so much of it is paid content anyway, that getting quoted isn't all that big a deal. And even if a CEO gets quoted in a major publication, it probably isn't doing all that much to generate sales. Sorry, but that's the case.

There are a few companies that "get" this, big time. Apple for one. Reporters hate working with Apple, because their PR folks are hard-nosed and difficult to work with. Sony's Playstation group, same thing. Microsoft's xBox group, ditto. Horrible to work with -- from a reporter's standpoint. But they're probably right in limiting interview only to situations where they can flog a product message.

That's my gut feeling, anyway. However, I could be wrong, and the companies with a more "open" PR philosophy may be right. The problem here is measurement? How do you measure -- quantitatively and objectively -- the value of being quoted in a publication? The answer is, you can't... unless...

Unless the publication is online. I'm surprised that nobody has thought of this yet, but it seems to me that PR groups should require online publications, as a condition of the interview, to include a unique link in the published version of the article. The company who granted the interview could then track the click-throughs, see how many converted into qualified leads and eventual customers.

After a year or so, the PR group would have objective, quantifiable data indicating what kind of publication made sense to work with, and which was just a waste of time.

Don't hold your breath though.

Man, I hope none of my PR contacts ever read this...

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