The Craftsmanship of PR: Beyond Selling

NASFAA 2008 National Conference

Yesterday my colleague Chris Penn took a look at the similarities between the job processes within sales and PR and made, as ever, a number of highly pertinent points. In the spirit of open dialogue at SHIFT, however, I wanted to offer a thought about the value-add of PR beyond the sales process.

Certainly “selling” stories to media and bloggers is a large and critical part of both the internal and agency PR role. But, in my view, it’s just the half of it.

Taking the view that PR is all about selling, starts with the assumption that a ready-made product lands on a PR professional’s desk.  We then fire off an e-mail or pick up the phone. But as seasoned PR pros will tell you, that’s not the full story.  Just because you have a business and a message, doesn’t mean you have a story that reporters or bloggers want to share with their readers.  As well as arms and legs for outreach, clients look to agencies for advice about how to make their business relevant to wider trends and find angles that are compelling to reporters. Internal PR practitioners also work with executive management and other departments to help the company create and hone those storylines.  So, in essence, PR professionals also help to create the product that they sell.

We take the basic details and sales and marketing messages and build narratives around them, advising clients how to tell their story in a way that makes them editorial-worthy. This involves creativity and insight regarding the media. It’s the rock upon which media outreach (or selling) is built.

At SHIFT, it’s considered a sign of career progression when a team member becomes adept at creating the pitch angles and ideas for research that have potential for generating media coverage and/or social media shares.  That’s why creative and smart are two of SHIFT’s core values.

I remember a colleague back in the UK telling me that her young daughter, after very succinctly summarizing her father’s job as an engineer at a soft drink company as “putting the bubbles in the can,” then moved on to inquiring about her mother’s profession.  My colleague dutifully described her own role as a PR consultant and the child replied, “so, you tell stories mummy?”

I always thought that’s a great way of understanding it – there is an art to both creating a storyline and in how you tell it (or in this context, sell it).  Out of the mouths of babes and all!

Dominic Weeks
Senior Account Manager


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