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  • Writer's pictureAdam Behar

Coffee's for Closers: 8 Sales Techniques All PR Pros Must Master

You saw Glengarry Glen Ross.

That was the defining moment, when you swore you'd never do sales.

I get it – it's no fun being humiliated by Alec Baldwin. So, instead, you went into PR.

Well, it turns out that PR pros can learn a lot from our friends in sales. Such as:

1. Always Follow Up

In sales, if you don't follow up, you won't get the sale. In media relations, it's the same thing. Reporters, of course, insist they don't want follow-up calls.

Should that deter you? Not in the least. Persistence is a hallmark of any successful PR pro --- persistence, not annoyance.

There is a right way and a wrong way to follow up. Don't call to ask if they got the release or if they're going to do the story. Call for a specific reason and with some urgency:

  • Provide updated information,

  • Underscore a key message, or

  • Offer interview opportunities

2. Don't Waste Their Time

Who has the time to sit and listen to a long, meandering sales spiel?

Same principle applies to media relations: Don't waste reporters' time with wordy tracts, where the real news, if there is any, is buried in the fifth paragraph.

You have, what, 10 seconds of a reporter's time in which to capture his attention as he scans your pitch? Use it wisely and efficiently.

Also, don't waste their time with non-news. The first time, a reporter may excuse it, but if your pitch letters and press releases are too self-serving, you'll lose credibility points with the reporter; she'll choose the delete button instead.

Finally, when you call a reporter, they're usually on deadline (or um messing around on Twitter), so be respectful and get to the point: what is your news and why should anyone – especially their readers – care?

3. Make Them Look Good

In sales, your job is to make your client look good.

That's what your product or service, if it works as advertised, is supposed to do.

How can a PR pro make a reporter look good? One way is to give her an exclusive. Some media relations specialists aren't fond of giving exclusives; they worry it shows favoritism and could hurt their relationship with the reporters who are shut out. You'll have to assess it on a case by case basis.

When possible, avoid a cookie-cutter approach to media relations. For example, if you're working one-on-one with a reporter, throw him a bone – a new angle, a different spokesperson, something – so his story isn't an exact replica of another reporter's story. He'll appreciate that.

4. It's a Numbers Game

Learning to handle rejection is as central to public relations as it is to sales.

In both cases, the persistent and dogged are rewarded. If one reporter doesn't bite on your story, the next one might. If one reporter is abrupt, the next one may show abundant appreciation for you. (Contrary to popular opinion, not all media hold disdain for PR people.)

5. Service matters

In sales, you sell service, not price. Similarly, what distinguishes the best media relations specialists is that they too sell service. They are accessible, responsive, and attuned to reporters' deadlines. When media call, they drop whatever they're doing to ensure the reporters' needs are take care of.

Media relations pros line up interviews, provide reporters with background information, and help with fact-checking. The best media relations specialists share story ideas with reporters even when it doesn't directly benefit them or their clients.

6. Know Your Reporter's Beat

If you're in sales, you need to know your industry inside and out – the trends, the products, and the players. If you're a PR pro, you need to study the media inside and out: how key reporters cover their beats, whether they do hard news or features, up-close profiles, or tips and trends.

Armed with this information, you can customize the right pitch for the right reporter.

7. It's the Leads

Leads are the lifeblood of any salesperson (again, think Glengarry Glen Ross). Same is true in PR, only the leads are our cherished media contacts.

One of the challenges is their shelf life. You might work a couple of years to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with a reporter, only to have her assigned a different beat or move to a paper in a different market.

Wit the changing media landscape, reporters are now an endangered species. Large numbers of journalists are migrating to PR, also known as “moving to the dark side.”

This state of media flux means we must constantly update our media lists and cultivate new contacts.

8. Integrity

In the book Integrity Selling, Ron Willingham argues: “A salesperson’s ethics and values contribute more to sales success than do techniques or strategies.”

This means keeping your promises and following through on your commitments.

The best media relations practitioners understand that personal integrity is their most valuable asset, and they must never compromise it. Once you lie to a reporter, you can pretty much write her off.

The damage is done, and it can't be undone.

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