PR and growth experts on How Public Relations differs from Advertising
We asked PR and growth experts to provide our readership of creative founders and tech startup with an overview on the differences between Public Relations and advertising. What is paid vs earned media? What to decide for to reach different business goals? What might be a good mix use for startups and small business owners? Here are their answers:
Catherine Doyle, Vice President and General Manager at PAN Communications, has been in the PR and media world for over 15 years, working with brands that range from stealth startups to publicly-traded companies. She has created integrated marketing campaigns for companies spanning the consumer tech, telecom, mobile, marketing, advertising and cloud industries.
“When it comes to providing startups with the advice that they need to develop an impactful PR and marketing strategy, there are a few areas to keep in mind. The first is that marketing, PR and advertising often work closely together. Advertising is the paid approach to building brand awareness and placing your brand at the center of relevant conversations. PR and marketing are typically the earned route to driving demand and awareness for your brand. As marketers, we like to think of earned media vs. paid media as the difference between Yelp and Yellow Pages; credibility can come from authentic reporting or the review of the company or product.
The second area to keep in mind when you are a startup or SMB with a limited budget, is that you must carefully choose who your target audience is. From there, take a focused approach to delivering owned content — lower cost and less resources needed — such as a blog or social media content. When learning how to create content for these owned channels, piggy-back off of trending stories or news to grab readers’ attention. But be mindful of the type of content that this target audience consumes and what channels they prefer to consume it on, because your efforts are null and void if you aren’t reaching them in the first place.
Lastly, paid programs might make sense if there is a specific, targeted audience that might be more difficult to reach. However, if you’re looking to generate broader awareness — like most startups — earned media will go further in building brand visibility.”
Katie Lischick, Public Relations Director at The Cyphers Agency, is a PR strategist who uses a combination of thoughtful research and personalized outreach to secure coverage in top trade and consumer media.
“It’s important to understand that PR and advertising make fundamentally different asks; advertising asks consumers to “do” something (buy, click, download, etc.), whereas PR asks them to “think” about, and more specifically think something specific about, your brand. When integrated properly, both can support lead generation and brand awareness goals.
Paid media, or sponsored content, blurs the PR/advertising lines but can be warranted to control your brand’s story in a priority outlet. Earned media, or traditional unpaid media coverage, is considered best to promote thought leadership as it offers third party credibility and a lower cost to reach your audience versus most ad placements.”
Alyson Dutch, Owner at Brown + Dutch PR, is a PR Maven with over 30 years of experience in the PR space working in the entertainment and consumer packaged goods spaces.
“PR and advertising are two kinds of marketing methodologies that are part of the marketing umbrella. marketing is 1 of the 3-parts of any business, which I call the POM Principle (P for product, O for operations, M for marketing). Marketing includes many types of methods that must be chosen based on who your customer is, where they hang out and what inspires them. Marketing includes PR, advertising, social media, email marketing, events, search engine optimization, online marketing, guerilla marketing, cause marketing, influencer marketing, Pay Per Click and so many others.. Marketing is everything one does to get a product/service off the shelf / out of obscurity and into the hands of someone who not only wants to buy it — but is inspired to spend their money on it. When used together, they are powerful. If you compared them, one might say that PR is unbiased, advertising is biased. There’s an old adage: “PR you pray for and advertising you pay for.” PR is earned media. Advertising is not, say-whatever-you-want media. PR is objective. Advertising is subjective. With PR, you can get deep into the background inspiration, colors and reasons behind a product. Advertising is very pithy and is more of a statement, than an explanation and consumers tend to not trust it alone without PR to explain why. PR usually gives one reason to feel something about a product and advertising usually is presenting an image. Any type of media could be PR: online, magazine, TV, radio, newspapers, but information flows through the opinion of another human and they provide an opinion. Advertising includes anything that’s paid — online ads, paid posts, influencer fees, ads on TV, print, and definitely influencers. Advertising is controllable, PR is not, but if you have a talented PR practitioner who knows how to position a story, write well and use PR tools as they can be used, you can control it.”
Mark Beal, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in Public Relations for the Rutgers School of Communication and Information, and managing partner at the public relations firm Taylor Global, New York, NY, has served as a public relations practitioner and marketer for 30 years and has led the strategic development and execution of award-winning public relations campaigns for Fortune 500 corporations.
“Public relations is no longer viewed exclusively via the earned channel. As the discipline has evolved with the advent of social and digital media, practitioners now practice public relations via the PESO Model (paid, earned, shared and owned media). While earned media has been the traditional focus of public relations professionals to secure editorial coverage, practitioners are now complementing earned with paid media including sponsored content, broadcast integrations, paid tweets and post as well as shared media, partnering with social media influencers, and of course owned media, producing and distributing content via their own channels including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and LinkedIn. Now, and in the future, all organizations, especially small businesses and start-ups, must view and execute public relations via the integrated PESO Model to drive measurable business impact.”
Caroline Hoffmann, French communications & PR expert based in London, delivers workshops to empower startups doing their own PR at an early stage when they usually don’t have the budget to contract an agency or a freelancer.
“PR is about persuading and influencing people through unpaid methods. Advertising is usually used to promote, sell a product. PR is used to build, protect and enhance the image of a brand. PR has more credibility because, allegedly, it is independently verified by a trusted third party, rather than purchased. And this is what makes PR trustful.
Would you trust a sales guy who wants to sell a product, or someone like you and me who has no ties with the company, who actually tried the product and shares his feelings and opinion about it? We all know the answer.
As a startup, you need to know what your objectives are before choosing whether you should do PR, advertising, or both. Both tactics have different outcomes answering different needs.
The last campaign I’ve worked on was MarketOrders crowdfunding campaign. We started working on the press relations 6 months before the campaign was launched.
NB: we didn’t have any budget for advertising, at all.
• Over 100 mentions in the press.
• Over 20 awards nominations.
• The campaign overfunded at 112%, raising a total of £439,840.
• 95% of the investors heard of us outside of the crowdfunding platform, through PR.
How did we do it? In a nutshell, we focused on the innovative technology of the business, its benefits, and raised the profile of the company’s Co-Founder as a woman in tech, successful entrepreneur and an authority in her field.”
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