By Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Public Relations

In the world of sales, trust is king.

You can advertise, promote, tweet, post, blog and sell like Dale Carnegie on steroids, but if you haven't built trust with your potential customer, it's truly a waste of good resources.

Regardless of what "behavioral research" professionals tell us is the reason why a consumer takes the leap of faith to make a purchase, I know from my 20-plus years in PR, that trust is one of the most essential ingredients. And, in today's marketplace, I believe the issue of trust is even more significant than ever.

Online commerce started exploding more than a decade ago and today the volume of sales occurring in this marketplace is booming. More books, consumer products, entertainment, durable goods and electronics are sold online than ever before. It ranges from the practical, like buying books and music from Amazon, to the ridiculously impractical, like buying a car off of eBay. This marketplace is growing and the one simple reality is that people aren't going to use their PayPal account or credit card to buy something from a Web site unless they have a sense of trust in the company or product they're buying.

Trust. That's it and that's all. So, how do you build it?

Assuming that you're selling something that's comparable to your competitor, the best way to build trust is by educating the consumer. They need to learn of your knowledge and expertise and gain confidence that what you're offering can solve their problem or benefit them in some way. This, combined with the ability to demonstrate your passion and hard work behind your product, is why PR can deliver best on the promise of trust.

Why is that? Simply put, it's the only tool in the media bag that affords you third-party verification. With advertising, you buy the space and you control the message. Consumers know this and understand that an advertisement is nothing more than a sales pitch. Although selling is an important part of marketing, it does nothing to build trust. But when you are featured in the media as part of an article, or appear as a guest on TV or radio, those placements are tacit acknowledgements on the part of the media that your message and your voice were important enough for them to feature it as part of their show or as coverage in the news. The Los Angeles Times may not use the line, "...this book is a must-read," or "...this product is a cure-all," but their inclusion of you in their news coverage is enough to help build credibility with their readership.

Moreover, this recognition takes place in a non-sales atmosphere. This is significant, because it's reflective of the consumers' desire to be protected from the barrage of advertising and promotion that they feel is simply aimed at getting your hands in their pocketbooks and wallets. People don't LIKE being sold, but they LOVE being informed, educated and entertained. The media presents your message in a way that is comfortable, familiar and trusted by their audience.

And there's that word again: trust. Regardless of what you do in terms of advertising, promotion and social media, getting real press coverage needs to be an essential element of your marketing and promotional efforts. It may not result directly in loads of sales. However, one thing is for certain, without trust, your potential for sales will be much slimmer.

Marsha Friedman is a 20-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. She also hosts a national weekly radio talk show, "The Family Round Table," and is the author of the book, "Celebritze Yourself."