Make sure PR becomes the sales team's best friends in 2017

Why PR Will Be Your Sales Team’s Best Friend in 2017

I always get excited about the first month of a new year. January is like back-to-school season for grown-ups. It’s the ideal time to rethink your current way of doing things—and to consider abandoning the status-quo for a fresh, new approach. Especially when it comes to the relationship between your PR, marketing and sales teams.

While we’re not advocating leaving behind what has made your team successful, we are advocating tossing out what’s keeping your team from achieving even more success. While we’re not advocating leaving behind your long-term strategy, we are advocating breaking down the silos that limit that strategy from being even more effective.

One of those limiting factors is managing your public relations, marketing and sales teams as separate entities. Whether you’re at a startup or a large corporation, you’re likely losing both dollars and deals by not harnessing the power of an integrated approach. In fact, we believe that PR can be your sales team’s biggest asset, to use on an ongoing basis or to leverage when times are tough.
But this is also a cautionary tale. When handled poorly, asking your sales team to use PR can be off-putting—to your colleagues in sales and to their prospects. If you’re not thoughtful and deliberate in your approach, it can go quickly go awry.

That’s why we’re sharing four tips to help you get started:

    1. Start slow and be smart: Bombarding your sales team with too much information is always a recipe for disaster. But that is especially true when it comes to press releases or articles – items they may be less familiar with than PowerPoint slides or marketing slicks. While it’s tempting to start off by sharing the highlights of your PR efforts from the last year, and then to start funneling the sales team every press release and article moving forward, it’s simply not the smartest approach. Similarly, just giving your sales team access to a shared folder of PR materials and saying, “use this stuff,” is ineffective. Most of the sales reps won’t do it, and others will likely do it very wrong, which is even more problematic.
    2. Remember your audience: You must choose your PR content wisely to get buy-in from the sales team. In addition to selecting items that are timely and relevant, it’s critical to think about their audience and end goals. The big idea is that communicating with prospects is vastly different than communicating with the media. For example, do sales prospects want to read a press release about an award that the company earned? Probably not. It’s better to share press coverage about that award from an industry publication because seeing an article in Healthcare IT News, rather than the “News” section of your website, increases the company’s credibility more than any self-issued release. Another great example is providing a client case study article for your sales team, and then letting them know that client quoted in the article is available for a reference call or to answer questions via email. Even though most prospects will not take you up on that offer, it creates instant credibility in their eyes, and puts sales reps one step closer to a signature on the dotted line.
    3. Provide guidance on the message: Keeping the audience top-of-mind helps you deliver the right message to your sales team, and helps them to deliver the right message to their prospects. Writing clear, concise emails to communicate with your sales team is vital. Many of them are traveling and skimming emails quickly on their phones. They may prefer to view articles as links, rather than by opening attachments. Understanding these preferences and adapting as needed is key to forging a partnership and facilitating their success.It’s equally important to help streamline their outreach for the PR materials you’re providing. Otherwise, your good intentions can be misconstrued as creating extra work. Having that message formulated and ready to go makes the outreach much more actionable for busy sales reps. We recommend providing an email template that enables them to easily copy and paste the information, and add a few personalized touches. Copy, paste, tweak, and send. Task completed!

      To take that idea further, some reps like when communication is sent on their behalf via a marketing automation tool like Pardot or Hubspot. If you have the time and resources to make this a reality for your team, it’s incredibly valuable. The only precaution here is making sure that the team is informed about the automated process so they don’t duplicate communications, or act confused when a prospect mentions the email that came from them.

    4. It should be a two-way street: Lastly, we recommend establishing a regular cadence for communication with the sales team so they know what to expect from you and when. There will always be unanticipated items that don’t fall within the neat confines of these rules but those can be the exception, not the rule. Combining that email communication with a recurring meeting increases your odds for success. While nobody wants to have more meetings, they are the most effective forum for two-way communication between teams, when they are well managed with a set agenda. The simple act of showing up and presenting yourself as a resource to the sales team, and then welcoming their feedback is greatly appreciated. Ideally, their feedback can provide new ideas and help inform your PR strategy moving forward. So, they’re winning deals and you’re winning too. And isn’t that what our work is all about?
Lisa Chernikoff
Lisa Chernikoff has over a decade of experience in marketing and public relations. She began her career at the University of Michigan Health System where she worked closely with communications leaders and subject matter experts to write press releases on hospital news and industry hot topics. After spending a short time in consumer PR, Lisa returned to her healthcare roots, spending 4 years at the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). At AHIMA, she drove communication strategy for certification initiatives like the association’s clinical documentation improvement credential. She also led new initiatives to engage student members, including a career prep webinar series and a ground-breaking healthcare IT career map to advance the HIM profession.

Then, as the marketing leader at Strata Decision Technology, a Chicago-based healthcare IT company, Lisa collaborated with the executive team to support the company’s rapid growth with a strong integrated marketing and communications plan. Most recently, at Procured Health, a Chicago-based startup, she launched a content marketing and media relations program to emphasize the company’s thought leadership. At Procured Health, Lisa also launched a new executive webinar series and secured countless speaking engagements to increase brand awareness. Lisa has a bachelor's degree in communications studies from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
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