SELLING THE STORY

By working together, PR and sales teams are boosting both revenues and reputations.

By working together, PR and sales teams are boosting both revenues and reputations.

Sales is sales, PR is PR, and never the twain shall meet. That mantra has been true in much of corporate America for years. But the recession has caused companies to realize that every department needs to contribute to revenues. That's led some to take the next step - getting sales and PR to work together to generate business. Such cooperation isn't always easy. "It's very difficult for them even to speak the same language," says Catherine Marenghi, whose Westwood, MA-based firm, Marenghi PR, specializes in sales-focused PR efforts. Sales staffs are normally looking at short-term sales goals while PR departments look at long-range reputation building, she explains. But the emphasis on earnings in a tight economy is bringing the two groups together, Marenghi contends. Another driving force is PR's desire to prove its value at companies that are cutting marketing budgets, says Andrew Weissberg, EVP with CPRi Communications, a New Jersey agency. "PR as a stand-alone is not going to cut it," Weissberg advises his clients. "What I tell the sales people is, 'I'm increasing your reach with PR.' I look at PR as a sales tool." PR can provide support to sales through a number of tools, such as web-based seminars for potential customers, finding speaking engagements for company officials, and profiling customers in white papers, in company newsletters, and in editorial placements. Reciprocally, clips that mention a company are being used in new, sales-oriented ways. Wendy Shay, VP of account services at Loomis Group in San Francisco, works with clients to find at least a half-dozen ways to utilize clips as sales tools, for example. She advises corporate PR departments to look to their sales teams as a source of leads on customers who might interest the media. The companies profiled below are each taking different paths to sales-PR coordination and the objectives they hope to achieve. But all show the potential of working together more closely. "I think we're being foolish as an industry if we do not embrace the bottom-line nature of business today," says Nancy Bacher Long, president of Dorland Public Relations, another San Francisco agency that helps client PR departments work with sales. "We can do so much more than we currently do to be a functioning member of the sales and marketing team." SecureWorks Like a lot of dot-com-era creations, security software maker SecureWorks started five years ago with an emphasis on technology, not marketing and sales. That changed when a new management team took over two years ago. CMO Chris Coleman and SVP of sales and business development Tyler Winkler, part of that new team, have been talking and coordinating PR and sales efforts since they joined the company. "Everything we've built, we've built together," says Winkler. Coleman says the goal of her PR efforts is "to fill the top of the pipe with inquiries" from potential customers. "The mandate I got [from the CEO] was, 'I want to see some measurable results.'" PR staffers at SecureWorks commit to delivering a set number of inquiries from their PR efforts each year. Every activity, whether a newsletter or a speech, is expected to generate a predetermined number of sales leads. All inquiries coming to the company are traced back to where the potential customer heard about SecureWorks. PR undertakings generated $300,000 in sales in 2003 and an additional $500,000 on which deals are expected to close this year, Coleman says. Tools she uses include working closely with trade associations in four key vertical markets, producing a subscription e-newsletter customized for those different markets, and targeting vertical industry publications and broad technology outlets for editorial mentions of SecureWorks. Winkler also lauds one-page case studies the PR staff does on clients - items he gives potential customers as sales tools to demonstrate what SecureWorks can do for them. The PR team also sets up webinars for potential customers that include a sales staffer. Winkler and Coleman talk every day, generating ideas about which publications PR should be going after, which customers would make interesting case studies, and which trade associations they should become active with. Summing up her PR efforts, Coleman says, "We have to generate awareness and bring in inquiries. I don't want our salespeople to feel they're cold-calling." AstraZeneca At pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, PR and sales are working together to project an image of caring and involvement in local communities and with local healthcare customers, explains Maria Firvida, manager, PR and ally development. Ron Iglesias, regional account manager, agrees. "We're bringing AstraZeneca to the forefront and really better serving our clients," he says. The sales staff looks for opportunities for AstraZeneca to partner with local healthcare providers in community events. PR then picks up the ball, arranging company involvement. Last year, AstraZeneca PR worked with sales to put together "State of Our Health," a series of healthcare forums that took place in key markets such as Boston, Texas, and Nashville. In each case, sales helped identify local hospitals, health plans, or employers interested in becoming involved. "We want to be a leader in bringing people together," explains Steve Meaney, senior prep manager for managed accounts. Local activities have included health fairs in Philadelphia. PR is also working more closely with AstraZeneca regional business centers to find local opportunities for positive exposure. JAKKS Pacific If ever a company had an excuse for PR and sales not talking, it would be toymaker JAKKS Pacific. Genna Goldberg, VP of corporate communications, works in the company's Malibu, CA headquarters, while SVP of sales Ken Price is in New York. But the distance hasn't prevented JAKKS from closely aligning PR with sales. Goldberg and Price speak at least three times a week. Says Goldberg of Price, "He's a big ally. He gets it." Goldberg produces a news bulletin informing the sales and customer-service people about mentions the company has gotten in the media. Salespeople share these with customers and potential customers, encouraging them to stock up on a product getting a lot of media attention. The company used PR exclusively to launch its TV Games, a series of handheld gaming units featuring 1980s video games. Goldberg talked with Price about which TV outlets would be ideal for getting attention for the new games and then went after those targets. The games, introduced in October 2002, were featured on such shows as Live with Regis and Kelly. Print efforts targeted men's and parenting magazines. PR also worked to get industry toy awards for the new line, something that carries weight with retailers. Videotapes of TV coverage were given to sales to show key retail accounts who hadn't yet decided to carry TV Games. More than 20 major retailers agreed to carry the new line. "All the retailers we sold to, we shared these clips with," says Goldberg. "We were letting our retail partners know that we were supporting the driving of retail traffic into the stores." Nationwide As a financial-services firm, Nationwide must address two audiences - the financial professionals who use and market its products, and the investing public itself. About four years ago, the company realized it needed to raise its profile, positioning itself as an expert in the financial-planning arena. "We have to create an image that attracts business and makes it easier for our sales force to sell," says Brian Haviland, a PR officer with Nationwide. Sales and PR began interacting, discussing trends in financial planning and looking for ways to position the company as a thought leader. Salespeople regularly agreed to be interviewed. "Sales has never turned down an interview request or gotten too busy for us," says Haviland. Doug Mangini, VP of independent dealer distribution, says he knows consumers read a great deal before making financial decisions. As such, he quickly saw the value of getting Nationwide into key publications. "It's a way for us to connect with our clients and address issues," he says. Reprints of articles quoting Nationwide are a regular sales tool. PR people attend sales meetings and go on sales calls to see what issues are surfacing. "It's really important to treat your PR department as a partner," Mangini explains. He took his current position with Nationwide 14 months ago and talked for months about better coordinating with PR. "We decided that we have to create a habit" of being open with each other, he says. "We made it our business to get invited (to sales meetings) and we've earned our stripes." Centra Software Centra Software, a Massachusetts software maker, relies heavily on customer testimonials as a key sales tool. PR manager Sharon Dratch says, "We have developed a symbiotic relationship with the sales reps." She and the other person in the PR department call reps and tell them what PR can do for them. They ask for customers who would make good profile candidates or might be willing to speak at industry events. Dratch has also come up with a way to get leads on customer stories. She sponsors contests, giving sales reps prizes such as mini-refrigerators and digital cameras if their leads turn into usable press releases for the company. A contest in late 2003 included a handout telling sales what PR could do for it and offered a prize to any rep who turned in a customer name that resulted in two press releases. Another promotion at the company's January sales meeting offering a digital camera generated 57 customer leads for PR. Sales representative Jim Sohl has seen 15 different releases written about his customers the past three years and finds them excellent tools to gain entree into new clients. Summing up how sales and PR can work together at any company, Dratch says, "PR is all about relationship building - externally and internally."

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