- Will Rogers
Both advertising and public relations get people to say and think nice things about your company. With advertising, you pay a media outlet to spread your positive message. Public relations is the art of getting free advertising in the form of a news story rather than an ad.
If public relations is not a significant part of your marketing plan, it might be time for you to do a rewrite.
A claim made in a paid ad or commercial is likely to be met with skepticism. An identical claim made by the news media will be perceived as nonbiased and objective. That credibility gap is what makes public relations so powerful and worthwhile.
Think of how bombarded you feel by advertising. Newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and the Internet generate a roar of advertising noise that many people just turn off or tune out.
Nike's "Just do it" ad campaign created fanfare and hoopla. The company's market share, however, has been falling from a high of 47 percent in 1998 to a current level of less than 35 percent.
The Energizer Bunny is a great concept but has not necessarily been effective at generating brand identification or loyalty. One quiz show offered a contestant $100,000 to name the company that sponsored the bunny. The contestant answered Duracell. It was a blow for both the contestant and Energizer.
What is clear from these examples and so many others is that advertising is not necessarily the best way or the only way to increase sales, market share or profitability. There is a great book on this subject entitled, "The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR" by the father-daughter team of Al and Laura Ries.
I have witnessed the difference between the buzz created by a simple press release about a company's accomplishments compared to a paid ad on the same topic. Time and again, hardly anyone saw or remembered the ad, while many folks read and recalled the news stories generated by the press release.
A shrewd public relations strategy takes interesting and relevant items about a business and puts them into a format the news media can relate to and use. Local media are hungry for stories about the accomplishments and innovations of businesses, along with services they are providing to the community or their employees.
Sure, a financial institution can run an ad announcing that it is No. 1 in the residential lending market. Getting the media to report on that success is so much more powerful.
I'm not suggesting that advertising is a waste of time and money. It can be successful at creating name recognition and brand identity through sheer repetition. It might be vital in a crowded market. Paid media also gives you control over your message.
Using PR to build interest in the product or service and then following through with advertising to repeat the message is a very effective internet marketing strategy.
I encourage you to consider building some PR into your internet marketing plans. It is an effective tool that you can employ to boost your sales at a very reasonable cost. You can do this!
Jerry Osteryoung is an FSU finance professor and executive director of the Jim Moran Institute for Global
Entrepreneurship at Florida State
University's College of Business. Osteryoung writes a weekly column dispensing small business advice and has authored eight books, including "So You Need to Write a Business Plan!" He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (850) 644-3372.