PR is Not a Luxury in Your Business Budget

By Jeff Cheatham, Senior Account Manager at TrizCom PR

Ask almost any small-to-medium sized business owner about advertising and you’re likely to hear, “We have to advertise or we won’t succeed!” Then ask that same owner about budgeting for public relations. “PR? That’s for big companies who need hot-shots to get them out of a jam every once in a while.”

Really?

The existing narrative that hiring a public relations agency is a luxury, akin to treating yourself to a spa day, is harmful to businesses seeking trust and engagement among their target audiences. Study after study confirms that a well-crafted and executed public relations campaign is far more accepted that paid advertising attempts.

What a Spa Day Looks Like. Not PR.

What a Spa Day Looks Like. Not PR.

In perhaps one of the most powerful citations, the group inPowered conducted a Nielsen-backed study in 2014 on the topic of the decision-making process in consumers. Its findings indicated that PR is 90 percent more effective than traditional advertising. The reasoning comes down to endorsement. Consumers are aware that ads are a paid quid-pro-quo. But a well-placed and glowing article about a business and what it has to offer in the pages of a respected media outlet reads like a tacit testimonial.

Let’s look at a quick real-world example of advertising vs. public relations:

This billboard ad I saw on my morning commute just told me to go buy a Casper Mattress.

This billboard ad I saw on my morning commute just told me to go buy a Casper Mattress.

Now let’s look at what a well-developed public relations campaign message looks like.

Did Business Insider just tell me I should buy a Casper Mattress?

Did Business Insider just tell me I should buy a Casper Mattress?

When you accept the reasoning behind why public relations encourages more trust among your target audience, it’s easy to see why brands clamor for rankings with J.D. Power & Associates. If I say I’m awesome, I’m simply bragging. If J.D. Power & Associates says I’m awesome, that’s actual proof.

One of the most eloquent examples of advertising vs. public relations is outlined in the book, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR, by Al and Laura Ries. One of their central themes states that advertising is like the wind, but PR is like the sun. Based on one of Aesop’s Fables, the sun and wind enter a challenge to see which has the most influence in trying to get a traveler to remove his coat. You can guess what happens. The harder the wind blew, the tighter the traveler clung to his coat. When the sun shone, the traveler removed it. The lesson for advertisers that the authors provide with this parable is that you can’t force your way into a prospect’s mind.

Advertising often results in resistance. If you disagree, I’ll assume you love to read pop-up ads and watch auto-play videos when you surf the web. If you click through or exit the ads to read the content you intended to do before you were interrupted, it’s likely you’ll see a fine example of public relations work.

Establishing a budget for public relations shouldn’t be seen as a luxury spend for your overall communications budget. Brands are discovering more and more that their customers seek trust, credibility, proof, engagement and a personal connection from the products and services they buy. A public relations campaign checks off each of these five boxes. Traditional advertising doesn’t meet a single one.

If you’re a small-to-medium sized business looking to increase awareness and visibility among your core audiences, it may be time to discard old notions and begin thinking about the utilization of a positive PR campaign of your own.

Because you can’t buy your way into a J.D. Power & Associates ranking.