Unleashing the Power of the Press Pays Off!
By Ruth Furman
Why invest your time – much less precious marketing dollars – on public relations initiatives?
Because implementing a public relations plan can help meet bottom-line business objectives including gains in market share, solidified brand position and perceived competitive strength. Especially in today’s challenging economic times, PR is a very efficient and affordable way to promote a business, product or service.
Admit it … doesn’t it make you a little nuts when one of your competitors is featured prominently in a newspaper, business publication or on TV – or quoted in an article about your industry? How would you feel if it was you or your company instead?
The most powerful form of consumer or business-to-business communication is a combination of PR and media advertising that conveys the same message at the same time about the compelling features, advantages and benefits of a product, service or business.
The fact is, many people are not clear about the differences between the two forms of communication – and there are differences, strengths and weaknesses with both - so let’s identify the key elements that make PR and advertising inherently different.
Before we talk about the differences between PR and advertising, let’s first state the significant thing they have in common – their goal – to increase awareness of a business, product or service in a positive, compelling way to generate new customers while also reinforcing the choices existing customers have made about a business, product or service.
Now, I have to say, since my primary focus is public relations, I have a slight bias toward the value of PR… BUT, I’ve worked extensively in both fields and for our time together I will make every effort to give you a balanced presentation.
Let’s look at the two distinct differences (note, I said differences, not necessarily advantages) that distinguish Advertising from PR:
* First, since you (or an agency) create an advertising message, you do have complete and total control over its content.
* And second, advertising is a paid media placement – so when it appears on TV, radio, billboards, or in newspapers, magazines etc. it will run exactly when you want it to run – timing is, in effect, guaranteed.
* Images can be used to dominate communication and are more easily employed in advertising messages where as words are the dominant form of communication with PR.
Now let’s look at PR:
* Public Relations turns important, pertinent information about a business, product or service into news ---- interesting, focused, compelling news. It is targeted to print publications, TV and radio in such a way as to make it valuable enough to the editors and writers of these media sources for them to deem it important to their audience, either by itself or as part of a larger story. There is no media cost involved – of course timing is not predictable or guaranteed.
*PR effectiveness and media use is highly influenced by personal relationships – that is, PR professionals have access to the media’s writers and editors (the decision makers) therefore PR concepts can be pitched to these individuals in such a way as to give them legitimate news ideas that also include and benefit the PR professional’s clients. This includes facilitating interviews with business executives or owners and building long lasting relationships that provide a ready source of information and interview possibilities when a media outlet needs such to support related news stories.
* Finally, there is the critical issue of credibility, believability. The very fact that advertising does involve total control at times limits its perception of credibility. When the elements of a PR release appear in a publication or are used on an electronic media outlet there is an implied third-party endorsement that has the perception of greater credibility and fact. This is one of the most powerful benefits of professional PR.
There are a couple of sayings I have heard bandied about when the topic of publicity comes up. One is – advertising you pay for. Publicity you pray for. I do not find this to be the case.
Public relations is not a game of chance. I’m not saying that companies and individuals do luck into PR opportunities from time to time. But to consistently generate publicity opportunities for your company, you must be strategic and you must know how and when to best approach reporters, trade publications, and TV and radio personnel.
If you are already investing in publicity, good for you! Publicize anything of news value. Monitor editorial calendars for business publications, newspapers, magazines and trade publications and tie in! Don’t forget to send your press releases and news announcements to newsletter editors for organizations in which you or your firm are active.
Above all… think like a reporter and consider all angles when developing story ideas! Many stories result from a great idea pitched at the right time to the right news outlet and reporter – not from blanket press releases sent to all news outlets. When building your media list or having a PR company do so on your behalf, do not overlook trade publications and other national media. If you play your cards right, a story in a trade pub often helps with stories by other news outlets.
When your publicity efforts are successful, I urge you … be what I call a SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTER and tell the world … or at the very least, your world. Never assume your current and prospective customers saw the article or TV segment. Remember – what others say (or report) about us carries a tremendous amount of weight. I not only urge my clients to post links on their websites to news coverage – I also suggest they send copies of stories to prospects. (You should also include news stories and web mentions of TV coverage in your sales kits you use with prospects.)
I also suggest you jot down this website: www.publicityhound.com
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About the Author:
Ruth Furman, a Las Vegas-based publicist, may be reached at (702) 255-8288