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Unlocking buy-in: The power of public relations

I stumbled upon a thought-provoking LinkedIn post by Bernard Jansen, a renowned South African marketer and the founder and CEO of Firejuice where he said:

“Biggest challenge for a small business is to build brand awareness. Biggest challenge for a big business is to build brand distinctiveness. Big brands easily get lost in the noise. Small brands struggle to get noticed in the noise. Since I only work with small to mid-sized companies, the challenge is always the same: help us raise awareness that we even exist!”

Apart from the struggle to gain market share, the other thing all businesses have in common is that they sell something. Whether it is a product or service… everyone is selling and getting people to buy-in to what they are selling is often one of the greatest challenges businesses face.

Buy-in vs buying

Buy-in is the acceptance of and willingness to actively support and participate in something. Buying a product is not necessarily the same as buying-in to a product or business. But when a business secure buy-in the probability of the client buying a product increases drastically because they support the business on a deeper level than just to satisfy their need to purchase.

So, how do you get people to buy-in to whatever it is you’re selling? An integrated Public Relations (PR) strategy.

Whatever you do, or wherever you go – your reputation precedes you. PR is the maintenance of a positive reputation of a company, brand, or person – therefore, ensuring good, positive interactions with yourself or your brand in the public domain will establish credibility and trust with stakeholders to ensure you are their first choice when it comes to making a purchase decision.

Zig Ziglar said: “Every sale has five obstacles: No Time, No Money, No Hurry, No Desire and No Trust.”

Public Relations is your secret weapon to establish trust and curate messages that develop a desire in people to want to engage with you, your product or your service. Your value proposition curated in the stories shared through public relations will take care of the rest.

Winning trust

Getting true buy-in isn’t easy. In his book, Buy-In, Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter writes that one significant factor hindering the success to get buy-in is the process we use to secure it.

He writes: “It is inherently flawed. In fact, we don’t approach it as buying at all – but about selling in. I call it ‘describe and defend.’ We develop an idea, sell it to ourselves first, and then go about selling it to others. We consider every objection and develop an air-tight defense for each one. The problem is that we need others to be open to our influence. When they feel sold to, they are more likely to resist or ignore our entreaties. We may get compliance, but we won’t get the kind of buy-in that motivates others to deeply support our ideas.”

As a public relations professional I can testify that this is no easy task. It is easy to describe and defend, but creating stories that exert and attract influence is a lot harder – especially since it also holds the organisation to a higher standard. However, once you get it right, you create emotional connections with stakeholders that create ambassadors for life.

Rand Fishkin, the CEO & co-founder of SEOmoz once said that the best way to sell something is to not sell anything. Instead of resorting to describing and defending you should rather focus on earning the awareness of your target group, respecting the people you deal with, and winning the trust of those who might buy. Fishkin noted that this will result in people developing a desire to buy-in to whatever you are selling.

So, next time you want to get buy-in, don’t sell too hard. In fact, don’t sell at all. Consider utilising public relations as your secret weapon to curate stories that focus on building trust, gaining respect and raising awareness - before you know it you will have the buy-in you require and the reputation that precede you is sure to be followed by sales.

About Ané-Sonet Bresler

Ané-Sonet Bresler is head of Investor Relations at Decusatio.

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