Public Relations (PR) is a commonly used term which, more often than not, is used and abused. Just what is PR? Is it marketing? Is it even management? What’s the difference between PR and advertising?
Well, big differences do exist and the small business owner is in a unique position to take advantage of this underused marketing component.
PR, when used correctly, is a powerful tool which can add great value to a business. From an external point of view, to an internal one, PR can be used daily to great benefit.
Below explain some common statements that are often fired at the PR professional.
• Advertising and PR is the same thing.
Is marketing and sales the same thing? No. Neither is PR and advertising. Advertising uses paid for media space to convey a message which primarily aims to sell a product or service, but usually comes straight from the business owner or representative. In its media form, PR aims to convey a message that educates readers, listeners and viewers. PR aims to inform the journalists that a story is worth publishing. If it’s paid for, advertising is guaranteed to appear. If it’s not a newsworthy item, then PR has to fight to gain the journalist’s attention.
• Advertising influences behaviour.
How can it influence behaviour if you don’t know the person’s behaviour to start with? Both advertising and PR can have tremendous impacts, depending on the product or issue. Many see PR as being more effective, simply because it is seen to be endorsed by the paper, journalist or editor.
• Writing an Advert is the same as PR writing.
Both take a lot of skill and craft, but both use vastly different approaches. The PR professional’s favoured tool is the media release, a form of communication which is aimed at media outlets. This has to be crafted in a news style format which contains facts and matches the medium for which it is intended. Advertising copy uses words geared to sell like proven, guaranteed, love and health.
• PR isn’t planned, unlike advertising.
No, the best PR person will always endeavour to plan and program a campaign in order that the communication is constant. Strategic PR planning identifies key messages, target publics and audiences, works within a strict budget and adheres to a timetable.
• PR is only used by the big corporations.
Simple but effective PR campaigns are something that every business should be implementing. PR can be used to improve staff morale and focus, and it can also form a crucial link to marketing campaigns.
• Media coverage is enhanced by advertising.
A common myth! In mainstream media, even in local media, advertising and editorial sections are completely separate. Normally the advertising person doesn’t know what the journalists are working on – and vice versa. Depending on the publication (trade publications and newspapers who frequently run supplements), advertising and editorial can be linked, likewise product placement can also be an important part of PR marketing, which enhances brand/product awareness.
Stuart Evans is a director of Vibe Communications