PR and Advertising: It’s Not an Either-Or Choice

Public relations and advertising are like peanut butter and chocolate. Each is good on its own, but together you have a real winner. Just talking about it makes us want to go pop open a Peanut Butter Cup. Right this minute.

Since we’re in the PR game, we lean toward public relations as being the more effective – and cost-efficient – member of the pair. But when you combine PR with advertising, you really do multiply your reach and coverage.

The advantage of advertising is that you completely control the message. You craft the ad campaign, buy space in all the appropriate places, and schedule the timing. With PR, you do run the risk of a journalist not conveying your news and your message exactly as you had hoped.

But PR’s advantage is in cost and the value in having a third party (the journalist and the publication) talking about you, rather than you talking about yourself.

As to cost, an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal will set you back several thousand dollars. If you can get a Wall Street Journal writer to write about you, you get greater impact among your target audience for a tiny fraction of that investment.

Of course, the key word there is “if.” You can’t control whether a writer deems your topic worthy, despite your best efforts at outreach. You do have control via advertising.

There’s also that question of who is saying good things about you. If you tell people “I’m worthy of your attention!” they won’t necessarily believe it. But if someone else – particularly if it’s someone they trust – tells them you’re worthy, it makes a much bigger impression.

The bottom line is that in our view, the ideal approach is a mix of PR and advertising. In addition to the reasons we noted already, there is one other consideration. By advertising in a media outlet, you build up a certain amount of good will, which can be reflected in a greater receptivity to your PR efforts.

We’re not talking about pay-to-play outlets, where you outrightly buy your news coverage. We have no respect for them. But for a lot of media outlets, your advertising support tells them you have confidence in them, and that can end up coming back to you in positive ways when it comes to news coverage.