If I had a nickel every time a CEO or marketing executive asked me how many more sales they'd make by using PR, Bill Gates would be jealous of my island-sized yacht.

In order to answer that question, however, it's important to understand the fallacy on which it's based. So, let me ask you a few questions.

Do you like to be at the receipt end of obvious sales efforts? When you walk into a department store to shop for a new pair of slacks, are you hoping the salesperson on the floor finds you quickly? Do you watch TV in anticipation of all the cool commercials you'll see? When you drive down the highway, are you excited when you see all the billboards dotting the skyline?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you're in the minority. The truth is few people like to be "sold" and that's why PR works so well. The soul of PR isn't promotion or sales, but rather, education and branding. When people read newspapers or magazines or listen to radio or watch TV, they are looking to be informed and entertained - that's what PR does.

In contrast, advertising is a numbers game. You put X number of dollars in one end of the meat grinder, and you hope for Y number of sales to come out the other end. PR doesn't work like that. So, the pithy way of answering the question, "How many sales will I make?" is to say that PR isn't a direct sales venue, but one thing is for certain - it's difficult to sell anything without it.

But why is that? Because PR is not where sales are closed, it's where sales begin. PR doesn't directly sell your products or services because it's not intended to sell anything. It's intended to educate consumers about who you are and what you're about. It alerts consumers to your expertise, your intelligence, your message and is an integral part of the consumer's decision-making process.

For this reason, PR's ROI is far more valuable and significant than advertising. No amount of advertising can accomplish what PR can accomplish. It's about branding your company, its expertise, its identity and its connection to your message. The reason this can only be done through PR is the implicit third-party endorsement when you're on the air or in the news.

In advertising, you buy the space, and consumers know they are being pitched your sales proposition. In PR, your venues are the editorial sections of newspapers and magazines and interview segments on talk radio and TV. Here, you're not a commercial - you appear in between the commercials, where consumers are looking for information.

So whenever I get asked the question of how many sales will result from PR, I don't answer with an imaginary number based on speculation. I answer with reality - PR is not a direct sales tactic, so it may not directly lead to sales in the sense that a million-dollar ad campaign might. But you will have a hard time getting any sales without PR educating the consumer that your company even exists.

Author's Bio: 

For 20 years Marsha Friedman has been a leading authority on public relations as CEO of EMSI. Go to www.emsincorporated.com to signup to receive her free weekly PR Tips today! More resources for authors can also be found at www.publicitythatworks.com. Or call at 727-443-7115 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              727-443-7115      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, ext. 202, or email at mfriedman@emsincorporated.com.