Thanks to revenue-generation targets, it's easy to recognise great salespeople in the marine and energy industries. But when it comes to best-practice PR, and its contribution to the bottom line, measuring success is less clear-cut. BLUE’s Senior Consultant Clare-Marie Dobing examines the relationship between the two disciplines and explains how closer collaboration could benefit businesses.
While public relations (PR) is gaining increased traction in the marine and energy industries, the discipline has a long way to go before it is regarded as a business ‘must have’ by all, alongside departments such as sales, accounting, and finance.
Many in marine and energy recognise the term PR, however, not everyone understands what it means, and even less know how to use it correctly to transform the future of their businesses. As a result, it’s not uncommon for poorly executed PR strategies to work in isolation from other business functions, or – worse – for its role to be misunderstood or dismissed. By its very essence, PR should involve interacting with, and securing the buy-in from, all departments within an organisation. Here, we focus primarily on the discipline’s relationship with sales.
Defining PR and sales
Sales teams are responsible for selling a company’s products or services. PR, by comparison, can be defined in many ways. At BLUE, our PR focuses on authentically building an organisation’s reputation from the brand up, helping businesses to realise their full potential.
Unlike sales, public relations is not concerned with the direct exchange of revenue between a business and its customers. But this does not mean PR does not contribute to an organisation’s bottom line. In fact, the opposite is true. How an organisation handles its brand (i.e. the emotive representation of its organisation; its values, DNA, guiding principles and what it stands for) is fundamental, while its reputation can make or break its bottom line.
There is some commonality between sales and PR. Importantly, both disciplines are underpinned by relationships. Salespeople cannot sell without a good rapport with their network and one of the core responsibilities of PR professionals is to protect and enhance reputation (i.e. the opinions and beliefs that connect an organisation to all stakeholders, including customers).
No business would last long without excellent salespeople. However, their success is helped or hindered by the strength of an organisation’s brand and its reputation in the market place, both of which offer a key competitive differentiator at a time when products and services in the marine and energy sectors are becoming increasingly commoditised. When salespeople ‘in the room’ (literally or figurately speaking in our digitally-connected world) are backed by a strong brand and reputation, the environment within which they sell is more favourable, increasing the chance of converting a lead into a sale.
On the flip side, poor PR, a weak brand and sub-optimal reputation can destroy sales efforts. In the most extreme case, the role of the best salesperson in the world would be untenable if the organisation they represent were to suffer catastrophic damage to its reputation that relinquishes trust in the brand. In such instances, sales teams are paralysed until a crisis is addressed and faith in the brand is restored.
Looking more strategically, great PR is not confined to the role of supporting sales teams. When utilised to best advantage, PR professionals with an expert knowledge of brand and reputation management married with an in-depth knowledge of the industries they work within should engage with businesses, using a real understanding of the market and the issues and challenges driving it. In this sense, truly consultative PR can join commercial dots and provide organisations with opportunities that they might not otherwise seize.
Ultimately, many in the marine and energy industries would agree that strong relationships, knowledge, understanding and collaboration are key to the sectors’ success. Each of us do business with those we have the strongest relationship with; those we know, like and trust. Sales and PR teams are both fundamental to the relationship building process and work best when supported by each other as part of an overarching business strategy with brand at its heart.