It takes strategically planned thought leadership and a carefully crafted image.
PR is great because it creates awareness...but awareness of what? Your brand? Okay, but why, how, what for?
There is value in a good press release and getting a few nice stories "out there" about you. But if you really want to move the needle and convert sales, you need to use PR in all forms (media relations, social media relations, industry visibility, speaking engagements, content marketing, events, etc.) to demonstrate thought leadership and subject matter expertise.
This is especially important for the small businesses you are working with because they can't afford the big budget mass promotion the large companies can. But, a small company can get involved with key associations, speak on panels, write white papers and share video, blog and twitter content that demonstrates not only their knowledge but that they are keeping up with trends and hot industry topics.
The biggest mistake people make in PR is to think it's just about one function (i.e. press release/media pitching) and they forget that is just one spoke in a very large wheel.
Good PR - This seems like an obvious, but most of what passes for good PR, isn't. PR is so frequently banal, condescending, untargeted or merely plain old bad, that I find myself boggling at what comes across my desk.
Good Product - This also seems obvious but, like good PR, is often not the case.
Good Targeting - You may have good PR and a great product, but if it's not something I'll ever care about...no sale.
Need/Opportunity - You can't manufacture this, despite what marketing tells you. You might convince me I need something, but that only works once and I'd better actually need it, or really want it.
When these work in tandem, you get a sale, otherwise, not.