Why sales people suck at PR

I’ve been known to dabble in a bit of PR and I’ve come to the conclusion that sales people have a terrible nose for a story. I was involved in one of those marketing by committee (let’s cc everyone not in marketing for their marketing input) regarding a request for editorial submissions and to be quite honest I was aghast by the sales team’s suggestions, which consisted of a list of objections they face in sales pitches and their “stories” showed how their product saved the day.

Sample PR Hooks by Sales People:

Company A bought our product, buy our product!

Company uses our product, buy our product!

Company bought our product and loves it, buy our product!

Company uses our product for X reasons, buy our product!

Company saved X using our product, buy our product!

Now, those “ideas” are not news hooks or stories but a listing of the given product’s features and benefits with a bit of name-dropping thrown in for good measure. That’s not a story to me, it’s propaganda.

We don’t go to a film to learn why it’s a good film nor do we read books to learn how good the story is,  we just want the story and we make up our own minds because we’re adults and intelligent and capable of discerning content.

ToFu, MoFu & BoFu?

Content marketers talk about lead attraction and nurturing efforts in terms of a funnel where the content or “story” evolves and adapts according to a prospect’s position in funnel:

  • ToFu: Top of the Funnel e.g. blog posts, tips.
  • MoFu: Middle of the Funnel e.g. case studies, white papers.
  • BoFu: Bottom of the Funnel e.g. free assessment, product demos or trials.

You start with general content that is educational (this product or service might work for you) right through to content that establishes you as the best possible choice (we know this product is ideal, now this is why you should buy from us).

PR is ToFu

Like blog posts, press and online articles are strictly top of funnel – to educate, to elucidate, to entertain and generally to pique interest. PR articles have an advantage over blog posts in that they’re generally considered objective and, depending on the source, have more credibility that a self-serving company blog.

The job of PR is to open, not close, a sale

Many moons ago, Peter Drucker said “the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous”, we help but our role is not to close. While nobody is likely to make a large B2B order based on a press article, the reader might well download an ebook or read a few more blog posts. Job done!

Then, marketing and sales can take up where PR left off and use their tools and skills to advance the prospect further down the funnel and eventually close the sale.

I appreciate that sales people can by hyper and buzzed up (brainwashed) and are just bursting to share the good news but there is a time and place and as readers or consumers of media, we don’t want to be hit with the hard sell straight away. Control yourselves and let your colleagues warm those leads first.

I try to do the ‘man bites dog’ test on every press release or pitch I submit. I try to be objective and ask myself honestly ‘would this story interest me as a reader, viewer or listener?’ You can read more about this in my blog post: 3 little words every spin doctor should know.

Finally, before you say it, yes I know not all sales people suck at PR. Headlines have a function too 😀

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