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Does PR really add value to my business?

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He has served as a sales manager, national sales manager, regional sales manager and Federal sales manager in previous incarnations. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

It’s a fair question. And when dozens—maybe even hundreds—of other urgent matters are clamoring for your attention, maybe the snap decision is “No. A press release, an article—they’re not asking for the sale. And if they’re not asking for the sale, what good are they?”

I understand the question, and the frustration behind the question. I’ve been on the sales side of the table, too. But it is my experience in equipment sales that has enriched my appreciation of the importance of good marketing—especially, of good PR and good content marketing.

Don’t be a stranger

I should start off with one exception. If your company is so big and pervasive that customers know every category of product you make and they come to you to buy—if your salespeople really just have to take orders and you have all the market penetration you want—then skip the rest of the article. You truly don’t need everyday PR.

As an ex-salesman and sales manager who specialized in new business development, I can tell you that the biggest helping hand Marketing could give me was to make sure that my company and my products were not strangers to my prospects. They could do that by making my company’s products a familiar and comfortable presence in the media that my prospects read regularly. One of the steepest hills to climb for a sales pro is when an introduction to the prospect brings you nothing but a blank stare. You can almost see the thought-bubble above the buyer’s head. (“Why is this guy talking to me? What does he even have that I need? I’ve never heard of his company before!” Or, “I need an X-machine, not the Y-machine he sells…”)

Or maybe that prospect—let’s call him Bob—has just one really personal and vivid memory of your company. Maybe the only real experience he’s had with your company was that one time one of your salespeople had a bad day and snapped at Bob at a trade show even though he didn’t know who Bob was… Or maybe Bob read an article about how your competitor’s Model ABC is so much better than your model XYZ, and that’s really all he knows. How do you think he will respond the first time your salesperson stops in?

But on the other hand, let’s say Bob has seen about one press release a month in the trade press detailing new products, new upgrades, special programs, key new hires or internal promotions or growth announcements. He’s read case histories about guys like himself and how your product solved a problem for them—not heavy-handed advertorials, which he believes are just so much, shall we say, “blarney,” but stories about the job itself which mention your products in a properly journalistic tone and are really interesting to read.

In the second instance, even the time your old, now-retired salesman snapped at Bob isn’t likely to be held against the whole company. Bob knows there are bad apples in every barrel, that everyone has bad days—he’s read so much good about your company that he is at least open to buying from you. He knows that your company is growing, it’s an exciting bunch of people to be associated with, you have products that a lot of his peers have come to trust…

That’s the value PR brings.

You have the stories—tell them!

According to a study in the United Kingdom last year, 8 in 10 business decision makers prefer articles to ads to help them choose products and services, and 70% of people say they feel closer to a brand that publishes content. So publish your content!

Like most of your peers, you represent an honorable company that really tries to create the very best possible solution for your customers. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because that is the way to financial success. But remember, no matter what you do, no one will know it, except those to whom you do it, unless…

If you want the larger world to know, if you want current non-customers to know, you must tell them.

And PR is the tool you use.

tagged in PR

Well of course the words matter

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer.

A few weeks ago I read this article on PR Daily: “The statistic communications ‘experts’ keep getting wrong.” The author, Brad Phillips, debunks the common misinterpretation of the 7% Verbal/38% Voice/55% Visual rule. This is a “rule” that I’ve seen a lot in the last few years, quoted by “experts” telling me that the actual words I use are unimportant in comparison to the visuals and “intangibles” surrounding them. I’d like to respond from the perspective of common-sense and how this statistic relates to the work that those of us in agencies and corporate marketing departments do every day.

But first—the science.

What the famous study does and does not say

You’ve heard this, I’m sure. “Most communication is non-verbal. Words only account for about 7% of our communication. The rest is based on visual cues and tone of voice!” If you are a wordsmith, as many of us are, that statement is going to raise your hackles. You may take umbrage. It may even provoke your ire or get your dander up. (Isn’t English a great language?) But, you know, if Science says it’s so…

But it doesn’t. The article in PR Daily references the Dr. Albert Mehrabian page on Wikipedia, which offers a basic overview of the good doctor’s research, upon which these statistics are supposedly based. According to this source, in 1967 Dr. Mehrabian’s study concluded that “the three elements account differently for our liking for the person who puts forward a message concerning their feelings: words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55% of the liking.”

In other words, there is a very narrow application for this research.

On Dr. Mehrabian’s own website he explicitly states:

Please note that this and other equations regarding relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes (i.e., like-dislike). Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.

Of course, the original research has detractors even when properly applied and I am not competent to pass judgment on either the 1967 study or its critics. But even if we accept his findings, we are back to the importance of words in communication (see, I finally got back to my main topic!)

Words are our friends

Well, with one caveat—if they are properly used.

But as the video in the PR Daily article makes abundantly and humorously clear, good luck figuring out what a presenter or speaker is saying just from the way he or she looks, emotes or sounds. You’ll get some indications, sure. But you won’t know if your quota for the year is 1 million or 2 million unless you hear or read the actual words.

In my career, I estimate that I have presented or spoken in front of groups of from a half-dozen to a few hundred on at least a thousand occasions. I’ve had great and not-so-great experiences (we won’t talk about the time early in my career where I actually put one of the six county commissioners in the audience to sleep—the room was hot and stuffy.)

Where I’ve had bad experiences, it was because for one reason or another, I wasn’t “on.” That affected my demeanor, energy level and tone of voice. And sometimes I was dressed inappropriately—wearing a suit in front of a decidedly anti-suit crowd, for example. Obviously Voice and Visual do matter in a presentation, just as graphics, photography, layout and overall “tone” do in an article, brochure or ad. And whether you are delivering a message in person or in a printed or digital piece, both tone and visuals should match the actual words in your message.

But to over-stress these at the expense of the actual message—which is still in words, until we get that Telepathic Interface thing up and working—is foolish.

Try communicating to a drilling contractor how deep your rig will drill without the correct words, placed in the correct order. Or try explaining why a client’s air compressor is superior to the competition using just a photo.

As far as I am concerned, those who get paid to communicate a message clearly and skillfully do not have to worry about the 7%/38%/55% rule making their jobs obsolete any time soon.