Selling Stories, Not Just Products: Leveraging Sales Skills & Techniques in Digital PR

Posted on: October 18, 2023

Digital PR

Amy Hunt

Rings

Digital PR and link-building can be a tough gig, it’s definitely not for the faint hearted. 

Sadly, it’s also one of those much needed areas of brand building that can be considered a bit iffy by some due to bad experiences with unethical methods used by a few bad eggs, making it an even harder job than it is already. 

But when done right (and ethically) like we do it, there can be huge benefits for both those sharing the campaign and those that are buying into it. And if you're a voracious consumer of content like most people, you’ve definitely bought into a PR story or two, whether you know it or not. 

But how does someone become a successful Digital PR pro?

Liam Neeson once said he had a particular set of skills, and while we aren’t going to be chasing naughty people across rooftops any time soon, the same can definitely be said for those that work in Digital PR - and much of those skills and techniques are sales-based.

Digital PR isn’t on everyone’s radar, yet it can have huge benefits from an SEO point of view, so I wanted to draw attention to those that consider themselves successful sales people and how you can use your skills for good in a different way. 

In today's fast-paced digital landscape, sales and Digital PR are converging like never before, and while these disciplines may seem distinct, they share a common thread: effective communication. 

So, let’s embark on a journey through my top 18 transferable sales skills that will ensure you’re a natural fit as you supercharge your online marketing efforts.

The Art of Storytelling: Crafting Engaging Narratives

Sales Scenario: In sales, storytelling is a potent tool for building rapport and conveying value. A skilled salesperson can paint a compelling picture of how a product or service can transform a customer's life.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: In marketing land, storytelling remains king. Mastering the art of crafting narratives is essential for creating content that captures attention, resonates with your intended audience and inspires action. 

Learn how to tell a captivating story that aligns with your brand's values and objectives as well as your target audience, and you’ll be well on your way to Digital PR success. Whether it's a blog post, a press release or a social media campaign, stories leave a lasting impact.

Building Relationships: The Heart of Sales

Sales Scenario: Building authentic, lasting relationships is a cornerstone for successful sales people. Trust and rapport are established through regular and genuine interactions with prospective customers.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Just like in sales, building and maintaining relationships is fundamental in digital PR. Cultivating connections with journalists, influencers and your target audience can lead to media coverage, guest posting opportunities, and ultimately, increased brand visibility. Do this really well and you may find yourself being asked for content too, as your rep for being a quality source builds.

Always remember, relationships are not just about what you can get, it's about what you can give as well.

Active Listening: Understanding Needs and Desires

Sales Scenario: Great salespeople are exceptional listeners. They pay close attention to their customers' needs, desires and pain points, tailoring their pitch accordingly. A sales person that talks more than they listen will never fully understand what a potential customer wants to achieve. 

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Active listening also plays a crucial role in digital PR. To create content that resonates, you must understand your audience's interests, concerns and preferences. Analyse feedback, engage in social listening and conduct surveys to uncover valuable insights that can then inform your PR campaign.

This can also be applied to journalists and influencers, find out what they like to talk about, what subjects make them tick? And don’t be afraid to straight up ask them what content they’re keen to share in the near future and see if you can somehow align with that.

Persuasion: Shaping Opinions and Driving Action

Sales Scenario: Persuasion is the lifeblood of sales. Sales professionals use persuasive selling techniques to convince prospects to take a desired action, whether it's making a purchase or signing up for a service.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: In digital PR, you’re pretty much doing the same thing. Craft persuasive pitches, press releases and content that influence journalists and readers alike. Use compelling data (empirical if possible) that’s too good to pass by, storytelling and social proof to shape opinions and inspire action. Whether it's earning media coverage or encouraging readers to share your content, persuasion is your ally.

Problem Solving: Turning Challenges into Opportunities

Sales Scenario: Salespeople encounter objections and challenges daily, and the ability to identify solutions and turn obstacles into opportunities is a hallmark of successful salesmanship.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: I’d say this is probably one of my biggest strengths and most likely why I’ve gravitated towards Digital PR. I’m all about solutions not problems and this (hopefully realistic) optimism can be quite persuasive.

In digital PR, challenges are par for the course. Whether it's managing a crisis or addressing negative online sentiment, problem-solving skills are invaluable. 

Approach challenges with a creative and strategic mindset, and look for opportunities to transform setbacks into success stories. Even if something doesn’t quite land, it’ll be a really valuable learning experience when it comes to your future approach and how it made you feel.

Presentation Skills: Commanding Attention

Sales Scenario: Sales folk are often well versed in delivering compelling presentations that capture the attention of prospects and drive home key messages.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Likewise, digital PR often involves presenting your brand or message to diverse audiences. Maybe not in quite the same way, but developing your presentation skills and creating resources such as engaging webinars, podcasts or live video sessions can really resonate with your target audience alongside other forms of content. A captivating presentation can help set you apart and leave a lasting impression.

Presentations are also a great way to remind your audience that you are in fact a human being too, and as the old saying goes… people buy from people.

Closing the Deal: Calling to Action 

Sales Scenario: Salespeople understand the importance of closing a deal. They use effective calls to action to prompt a decision from prospects.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: In digital PR, every piece of content should have a purpose. Include persuasive CTAs in your press releases, blog posts and social media updates to guide your audience toward specific actions and make the next step of the journey as easy as possible. 

Whether it's subscribing to a newsletter, downloading a resource or sharing your content, a well-crafted CTA can be the difference between a conversion or not.

Adaptability: Thriving in a Changing Landscape

Sales Scenario: The sales landscape is ever-evolving, to deal with this, successful salespeople are often adaptable and quick to embrace new technologies and strategies.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Digital PR is no stranger to change, either. With the mediaverse constantly shifting, adaptability is vital. Stay ahead of the curve by exploring emerging trends, whether that’s multimedia storytelling, interactive content or data-driven PR, there’s always going to be something new to get your teeth into. An adaptable approach ensures your PR efforts remain effective in a dynamic environment.

Metrics and Analytics: Measuring Impact

Sales Scenario: Sales people rely on data to measure performance, track leads and optimise their strategies. Metrics such as conversion rates and sales funnels are their compass.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Metrics and analytics are also crucial in digital PR. Use tools to track the performance of your PR campaigns, monitor media coverage, and measure audience engagement. 

By analysing data, you can refine your future PR plans for maximum impact and demonstrate the tangible value of your efforts. Knowledge is power so they say.

Resilience: Bouncing Back from Rejection

Sales Scenario: Rejection is part and parcel of sales and resilience is the ability to bounce back from those setbacks quickly to continue pursuing your goals.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: This one can be a real shock to the system when you first start working in digital PR, you tend to go in with certain expectations but it’s important to remind yourself that not every pitch will result in media coverage (or even a single response from a contact in some cases), and not every campaign will go viral (very few do, in fact). 

Embrace rejection as an opportunity to learn and improve. Could your email subject lines do with a tweak? Could your press release benefit from a bit more detail? Stay resilient, adapt your approach, and keep pushing forward, it’s very much a game of trial and error. Resilience is the backbone of long-term success in digital PR. Keep on keeping on!

Building Trust: The Foundation of Sales Success

Sales Scenario: Trust is the linchpin of successful sales. Establishing trust with customers is essential when trying to build long-term relationships. Prospects will lose interest if you’re over-promising, not being 100% truthful in your offering or not sticking to schedule without explanation.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Building trust with your audience and the media is a pillar of effective digital PR, too. Be transparent, authentic and consistent in your messaging and tone of voice to foster trust. 

Trustworthy brands are more likely to gain positive media coverage and enjoy stronger support from journalists.

Time Management: Efficiency in Action

Sales Scenario: Strong sales people are masters of time management. They prioritise tasks, set goals and optimise their schedules to maximise productivity, because maximum productivity means a greater chance of closing deals.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Time management is equally critical in the fast-paced world of digital PR, especially reactive PR. Juggling multiple PR campaigns, tight deadlines, guest posts and media contacts can be tough and requires effective time management, otherwise you run the risk of missing the boat.

Negotiation Skills: Finding Common Ground

Sales Scenario: Negotiation skills are a salesperson's not-so-secret weapon. Negotiating helps bridge gaps and reach mutually beneficial agreements.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Negotiation skills are valuable in digital PR when collaborating with influencers, partners or journalists. Negotiate terms, expectations and deliverables to establish win-win partnerships. Effective negotiation ensures that your PR campaigns are executed smoothly and meet your objectives as well as give them what they need. No deal should be one-sided.

Networking Mastery: Building Bridges for Success

Sales Scenario: Sales people tend to be very personable, charismatic and excel in networking - making it easier to forge new connections with potential clients and industry peers to expand their reach.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Networking is a big deal in digital PR, too. Constantly cultivating new relationships with journalists, influencers and fellow PR folk can open doors to media coverage and collaboration opportunities. 

Strengthen your networking skills will not only help amplify your PR reach but your influence in the industry too.

Personalisation: Tailoring Content for Impact

Sales Scenario: Sales presentations and pitches are often customised to resonate with different prospects personally. Salespeople will adapt their content and style to engage different audiences on a more familiar level.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Being versatile in how you present your message is essential. Tailor your content to suit different platforms and audiences, from crafting different press releases for different types of new outlets, to creating engaging social media posts in a particular tone of voice - knowing exactly who you’re talking to and mirroring their quirks will always make it more memorable. 

Emotional Intelligence: Connecting on a Deeper Level

Sales Scenario: Sales people will also often tap into emotional intelligence to connect with customers on a personal level, understanding their feelings and motivations is a big deal when it comes to offering a solution to pain points that a prospect might not have even known they had.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Emotional intelligence is invaluable in digital PR, as it’s what will enable you to create content that connects on a deeper, more personal level. Try to understand the emotions and motivations of your audience to craft messages that evoke a genuine response. 

Connecting emotionally can lead to more impactful storytelling and heightened engagement.

Follow-Up Expertise: Nurturing Relationships

Sales Scenario: Seasoned sales folk understand the importance of following-up, with 80% of sales estimated to take an average of five follow-ups before the deal is done. It’s important to nurture leads and maintain relationships with customers to keep a foot in the door, which will hopefully lead to long-term success.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Effective follow-up is equally crucial in digital PR. After pitching a story or campaign, be sure to follow up with journalists and media contacts to maintain relationships and ensure your content is on their radar. 

However, journalists can be very busy people and they won’t think twice about blocking you if you become a nuisance. PR software bigwigs, Prowly suggest 2 follow-ups should be your limit before changing tact/reaching out to someone new.

If you’re a Gmail user, tools like Mixmax can be really useful here, as they allow you to see who’s actually reading your emails but ignoring you. This “ghosting” can be a pretty good indicator of where they stand. 

Forecasting and Strategy: Planning for Success

Sales Scenario: Sales teams rely on forecasting and strategic planning to set goals and achieve targets. Analysing data will help them to make informed decisions about what approach to take in future.

Transferable Skill in Digital PR: Data-driven decision-making is really important in digital PR, too. 

You can use data analysis to help prepare PR trends (such as seasonality and awareness days), set strategic objectives and measure campaign performance. A strategic approach based on data insights ensures that your work is aligned with your goals and will have the sort of measurable results you want to see.

A Match Made in Heaven

I hope you’ve managed to find something to take away from this list! As we've explored, sales and digital PR share a lot of common ground when it comes to effective communication and relationship-building. 

By using these transferable sales skills, digital PR teams (and former sales peeps that might be looking for a change) can supercharge strategies, create compelling narratives, build lasting relationships and drive meaningful engagement.

Likewise, if you master networking, have versatile creative content, and follow-up appropriately, you can make a big difference to your PR forecasting and strategies for bigger and better results.

So, whether you're closing a deal or crafting a persuasive press release, remember that the skills honed in sales can serve as your secret sauce in the weird and wonderful world of digital PR. 


Keen to learn more about our Digital PR services and how we can help amplify your brand? Just give us a call to have a chat with one of our seasoned experts who are always happy to help.

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Amy Hunt

Head of Outreach and Digital PR

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