It’s a question that’s been posed to practitioners for decades: “Can PR drive sales for my business?”

Until recently, the answer has been muddy, at best. “It’s possible” and “No, PR is an awareness tool” are two of the more common responses issued by agencies.

As we push beyond the perceived output of our field being millions of intangible media impressions, we can tell you that public relations can and should contribute to measurable sales for a brand. This is a performance indicator we pursue for many of our consumer-facing clients at Lambert.

In the past six months alone, we’ve jumped at challenges from clients to:

  • Help retain a key retail customer account
  • Create consumer demand for a product in effort to “win” a new retail customer account
  • Generate more sales of a new product concept at specific online and brick-and-mortar retailers
  • Inspire residents of a specific community to purchase a regional product
  • Prompt people to buy products directly from a brand’s e-commerce page
  • Dust off a years-old email list to rally past fans to buy again

Six months ago, we admittedly weren’t sure what these test programs would yield. Awareness and impressions have been the laws of our land. But, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work, committed to trial, error and trial again. After all, we are the challenger agency for challenger brands, and the needs outlined above have the power to make or break a business. We take this to heart every day and it fuels us.

The keys to our sales-generating success are a laser-focused strategy built around specific goals coupled with smart targeting and data analysis. This approach optimizes every dollar invested. Earned media coverage, social media content, influencer collaborations, strong search performance and a mix of paid media are tools within the converged media box.

Expanding on what we know about zero moments of truth, the consumer decision journey, digital shopping habits and the ability to hone in on strong audiences, we have become experts in serving up frequent, relatable and action-oriented content that has paid off on every challenge we were dealt.

For new and household name brands, we have seen incredible returns:

  • Thousands of dollars in sales on month-over-month
  • A 26 percent increase in sales of plant-based meal bowls during the campaign period that remained lifted after the program’s conclusion
  • A 40 percent increase in sales in a large U.S. market over a three-month period, representing a 5x return on investment on the program cost
  • Buy-in from new retailers for a brand’s product launch

Importantly, much of this was achieved through well-placed content and a precise, deliberate request for people to make a visit, product request or timely purchase. Attention spans and millions of marketing messages have stretched us thin. If nothing else, brands cannot afford to leave anything open to interpretation. If you want PR to drive sales, then you must spoon-feed the opportunity, benefits and decision to precisely the right people.

Tell me more about the Converged Media Model

For as long as media outlets and journalists are around, it’s one of our best and highest uses as PR pros to offer up compelling story ideas that only we know how to do (well). With media outlets hungry for content, facing limited capacity and shifting much of their publishing to digital channels, PR realistically does have to expand to be of relevant service to its audiences. That means pursuing converged media programming where we maximize the reach of earned media and other relatable content across owned and paid channels to meet people where they are — nose down in their phones, consuming content and calls-to-action.

At its core, Lambert is a PR agency that’s skilled at integrated marketing. We work to increase a brand’s discoverability through the strategic use of content and positioning consistently on every channel. We know that the human brain follows a rule of frequency, where it takes six or seven times to hear and digest a message before it makes an impact. This plays into the way we reach audiences with media coverage and complementary content in all the places we know they’re spending time.

As the PRSA definition of our work explains, PR is about influencing, engaging and building relationships with people across a mix of platforms. Fortunately, today each platform also comes with an opportunity to collect and interpret data that, when measured against a client’s sales performance, can demonstrate a tie back to PR.

Learn more about our successes by reading our client case studies. We’re up for your challenge.

Becky Olson is a director in the consumer practice at Lambert.