Using PR to Increase Your Sales

by 11 May 2012

The emerging PR generation:  It’s Social, it makes a Statement and it Gets Traction.

 (TheNicheReport) -- Approximately 49% of American population is under the age of 34 years old. We have an entire population of people buying products who will not spend a dime on a product if the company website doesn’t include third-party content from other product owners who have rated the product highly. They don’t believe anything they read in the paper, see on television or hear from someone who was born in the 1960s because that makes them old and out of touch.  Thank God they’re not buying real estate yet, but they will be, very, very soon.

In the glory days of public relations, if you weren’t a member of a key target public, you didn’t really matter. You couldn’t impact the way the company sold goods and you had no influence over the people who bought them. You weren’t part of the equation. Today, anyone that wants to spout something online can become part of the conversation. And if they’re clever, like Dave Carroll who saw his guitar get smashed by a United Airlines employee, their message may go viral and impact how millions view a company’s brand. At this writing, Carroll’s clever song about how the airline failed to compensate him for his property has been viewed nearly 11.7 million times.

Public relations are no longer a game just for those organizations who can afford it; it is an essential sales tool to grow your business. Given the complexity of social media, 24x7 news cycles and the seemingly endless abyss called the internet, it’s now a game you can’t afford NOT to play.

Implications of a new PR paradigm

Naturally, being in business to make sales and profits, we want to know the implications of this new definition of public relations. To answer that, we need to take a closer look at how modern online networks have changed both the way we segment target publics and the way we share information with them. Believe me, this will be valuable when we talk about how real estate firms can capitalize on the new paradigm to make every sale easier.

We live in the world of the long tail, where consumers have segmented themselves by choosing online content that meets their needs for information and entertainment. While broadcasters do occasionally garner large audiences for the programming, MadMen a notable example, in general the traditional media has become just another option for the brand owner. Increasingly, they are options chosen less often than online media.

According to eMarketer, a publisher of data, analysis and insights on digital marketing, media and commerce, US online marketing spend will grow by 23.3% in 2012. Zenith Optimedia put the total US ad spend in 2011 at $154.9 billion. Much of this new spend is expected to go to video (54.7%), sponsorships (27%) and search (27%). Because people have only so much time to spend online in the course of the day and there are only so many outstanding web sites, according to Alexa (about 500 capture the vast majority of visitors each day), you would expect the new paradigm to be pretty much the same as the old one: the brands that spend the most money get the most benefit. But that doesn’t work when communication goes in both directions.

The $104.5 billion that advertisers are expected to spend on online video in 2012 will be very, very different from any similar spend on television because people can comment on what they see and share the video with their online friends. When it works to the brand’s benefit, this acts like millions of additional broadcasters picking up and sending out the advertisement with the implied endorsement of someone the receiver actually knows and trusts. It doesn’t get much better than that.

It’s not surprising that more advertising money is migrating from traditional, one-way media outlets to online, n+plus1-way media outlets (math talk for where n is any number greater than 1). If you could spend the same amount of money to influence all of the people who watched a particular television program, or all of the people who found your online video and all of their friends and all of their friends, which one would you choose? You don’t have to be an Amway survivor to know how this works.

You do, however, need to know how to succeed with online media to make this work. Sometimes that means bringing in a partner. Increasingly, firms that go there are forgoing the traditional advertising agency relationship and going with PR firms instead.

Do you know the difference between a PR firm and an Ad agency?  PR firms increase sales.

Whether the conversations are taking place on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or one of the hundreds of other social media websites that are springing up on the web, the one thing that consumers have made abundantly clear—especially younger buyers—is that brands are not invited. People are talking to people online and they have little, if any, tolerance for corporate marketing speak.

Sadly, Madison Avenue types invented that language and have traditionally found it difficult to speak any other. It’s the PR team that has traditionally been called upon to speak from the heart to target publics. In the distant past, PR folk spoke the consumer’s languages to give the impression that there was an actual relationship between the brand and its buyers. Today, they do it because it’s the only way their brand will survive.

It’s a transition that has taken some time. I’ve been watching it happen for the last few years. It started out with brand owners assuming that the online world was just an extension of the traditional media world. They made up fictitious characters, put them out into the world, let them start interacting with people and watched as they crumbled under the gaze of real-world folks in the online world. The backlash was surprising, to the brand owners.

The stories that advertisers tell about their brands are generally less effective when told online. The ability for consumers to rate brands and share their own brand stories has made it necessary for brand owners to think more carefully about the truthfulness of every communication. It turns out that skill was not particularly highly valued in marketing communication departments in the past. But telling the truth in a way that benefits the company is PR that folk have always done.

Successful PR strategies to grow real estate sales:

At the risk of sounding like a marketing person, I want to share some nuts-and-bolts information about what a good PR firm could do for a real estate company and some idea of what something like that should cost.

First, a PR firm can help you segment your target publics and create a communication plan that will tell you what each of these groups needs to hear from you and understand in order to get them to help you reach your goal. This, of course, presumes that you have set concrete corporate goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. If you don’t set your goals first, every single dollar you spend will be a waste.

Invariably, you’ll find that different target markets need to know and understand different things about your business in order to react the way you need them to. A PR firm can craft these messages, find the best media via which to release them and then distribute them.

This is where many New Media firms fall short. They start with the tactic, such as using a LinkedIn status update or a video on YouTube. You must start with the goals, segment the target publics, and then decide whether any of the messages you have to get across to any of your target publics could best be delivered via YouTube video.

Once you get these stories out to the publics, the PR firm can measure the results, letting you know who is “getting” you and who still needs to be convinced. In general, PR firms don’t specialize in the home run viral video production that some advertising agencies have fallen back on in order to remain relevant for a few more years. That’s changing and more of the traditional public relations firms are picking up low-cost gear and shooting very good video for their clients.

In addition to giving you the right content to appeal to your online publics, a good PR firm will also serve up the traditional press releases and media alerts that you’ll need to stay in the “traditional” news, propagate through the web and improve your SEO results, as well as get your experts accepted as trade show speakers and traditional broadcast media guests.

As for prices, most PR firms are still working to get clients to sign retainers based mostly on their contacts with the most important media. But today, the game isn’t just about the big media, so it’s getting harder to convince firms that retaining a PR firm makes sense. In truth, you’re only paying for two things: strategy (what stories should be told through what media to influence what publics) and message creation (writing). You can hire a good writer by the word. Strategy is a bit harder.

You can pay for strategy by the hour, but you can also get it bundled into certain deliverables, like an eNewsletter customized for a certain market for a set fee each month, etc. You can find firms that will deliver videos, podcasts and social media maintenance. Just be sure that they aren’t starting with the tactic, but are also including the consulting required to correctly target the market segment and generate content that will influence that group.

The most valuable thing a PR firm has to offer is the ability to correctly target, intuitively understand and effectively persuade important target markets, starting with your buyers. If you find a firm that can do that, you’ll quickly discover that listings and sales come much easier – and that can be worth a fair amount of money each month.


Rick Grant is a freelance writer and editor with over 15 years of experience writing about real estate and home finance industries. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter at @nyrickgrant.


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