What good is public relations if you can’t sell? 

AUCKLAND: New Zealand – It is not unusual for Iron Road public relations clients to want to amend press releases to include promotional messages like ‘lowest prices,’ ‘affordable,’ ‘discount’, ‘guarantee’, etc. Unfortunately, promotional content stands a snowball’s chance in hell of media pickup because, as they would rightfully say, it’s advertising, not editorial. 

Journalists act in the public interest (most of the time). They consider themselves the watchdogs against corruption, political overreach and wrongdoing. They’re not there to sell stuff but to inform, educate and report—to earn the trust of their audience. Promotional ‘news’ puts consumers off because there’s no human interest element, just somebody trying to sell them something, and they get enough of that. 

Objectivity is crucial to good journalism, and promoting somebody’s products or services is anything but objective. 

This begs the question; what use is public relations if it doesn’t increase sales? The thing is, it does, and it does it powerfully. It puts you in front of a bigger audience and an engaged audience that advertising just can’t manage and because it is editorial from a third-party objective source (that has the audience’s best interests at heart), it is more likely to be accepted. 

For example, I recently did some media for a solar power installation company, which dealt with the lack of regulation in the industry, the poor quality of skills and the dodgy technology provided by some quarters.  

There was no promotion, just an article addressing changes that need to be made to the industry in the interests of consumers. The client was interviewed on National Radio. Somebody who heard the interview Googled my client’s name, and the result was a ‘big ticket’ sale. There was no email, no website address, no call to action–we didn’t need one because if somebody wants to know more, they can use Google. 

Think of the car salesman who approaches you in the lot when you express particular interest in a motor vehicle. He or she listens to your needs and then points you toward a car selling for a lower price but one that is better suited to your needs.  

When you choose to inform and educate people about things that are relevant to their lives, they will begin to trust that you do have their own best interests at heart—you shouldn’t be in business if you don’t—and so will the media.  

The key to good public relations is to inform, educate, and even inspire.  

The result is trust, awareness, and profile—good public relations positions you as an expert because the content adds value to the audience. People buy from experts they trust. They will seek you out. 

  1. Don’t promote, educate instead. 
  1. Put the interests of your audience ahead of the sale. 
  1. Be relevant by addressing an issue or problem that is important to your audience. 

Understanding and respecting the boundaries and best practices of media relations is essential.  

Journalists, especially those in popular outlets, receive many pitches daily. Adding to that volume without a clear, relevant story can result in your material getting lost or ignored. 

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