Brand and reputation vs. sales leads

There’s a school of thought, especially among small businesses, that says great public relations, brand building and reputation management mean nothing if they don’t produce a sales lead. After all, business survival depends to a large degree on making a sale.

It’s completely understandable that a small business, which may be operating on a very thin profit margin, would want to cut to the chase. PR, brand identity, yada yada...

...but did it produce a sale or at least a lead?

That’s a fair question.

One way to look at it is short term vs. long term. In my experience, most people who want to focus solely on lead generation are focused on the short term. They might have a specific goal for sales they are trying to achieve, or the company might be operating in the red and the only thing that matters right now is the urgent need for revenue. Those worthwhile objectives are more about sales strategy and marketing than PR and brand management.

The long-term case for focusing on building an enduring brand is that the company’s long-term future depends on it.

Let’s say, for example, that Company A is facing aggressive efforts by competitors to regulate it out of business. Company A can and should use lobbyists to counteract those efforts.

But in addition, positive press about Company A, as well as high-profile community engagement and thought leadership programs, can make it clear that Company A is a good company, doing good work in the community and helping consumers. Those efforts will strengthen Company A’s brand and make it politically more difficult for opponents to push harmful legislation against Company A. (I know this because I’ve seen it work.)

Such efforts might or might not generate an immediate sales lead. But solid PR, brand and reputation management strategies should be seen in a much more long-term, big-picture context. A strong and positive corporate identity benefits the company in many ways -- one of which is supporting the sales function.

- Eric Whittington (