In my forty years in the PR and advertising business and twenty-plus years serving clients, I have yet to discover a completely viable method of quantifying the effectiveness or difference between the two main marketing tools –advertising and public relations. Both can be effective but are very different in what they return for the investment. I’ve always recommended that a client – if they can afford it – execute a coordinated campaign of both PR and advertising. In this instance, I am referring to traditional online or print ads, not digital ads designed to enhance SEO. The old fashioned conundrum of running an ad campaign versus a targeted PR campaign still exists within small companies with limited marketing budgets. You want and need both, but simply is not affordable. If one must be chosen as a budget priority, PR in the form of earned media outreach offers the following advantages:

– Credibility, credibility, credibility – Quite simply, ad content is what you are saying about yourself. PR stories are what someone else is saying about you. You can’t buy credibility. You earn it by convincing the media your story is newsworthy enough to deserve editorial time or space.

– Cost – PR will be less costly, particularly in national media. To buy commercial time or space in a national media almost always far exceeds what you will pay for a much longer and more comprehensive PR story or appearance.

– Engagement – Stories presented within the normal content of a show or even editorial content of a magazine, engage and immerse the audience much more than an ad, no matter how creative.

– Brand building – Nothing will build a company’s brand more effectively than the word-of- mouth and social media virality of the stories that have earned in-depth editorial coverage.

Advertising is the content people put up with in order to get to the content they actually want to see. People will gladly fast forward through a commercial in order to get to watch what Rachael Ray or Ryan & Kelly are talking about on their show. Or they’ll click out of an online ad in order to read the article beneath it. Wouldn’t you rather be part of the content people want to actually see versus the stuff they fast forward, skip, and click to get rid of?

Again, if the budget allows, a good promotional communication plan will incorporate both PR and advertising and perhaps other marketing tools as well. But if the marketing budget is limited, the PR media outreach provides the greatest bang for the buck.

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