Advertising is not free advertising. Don’t ruin your lobbying efforts by slipping into sales mode.


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Public relations is the most misunderstood function under the umbrella of marketing and communications. Even with companies that have a general understanding of PR, there are still some massive misconceptions.

Even more disturbing is the idea that it’s all just free ads. Even worse, industry professionals have done little to squash this myth. In fact, many agencies propagate this false comparison by relying on misleading metrics such as the Advertising Value Equation (AVE) to determine their results.

It’s time to expose this toxic misnomer that is particularly prevalent in the startup community.

What Small Businesses Really Want From PR

When a small business launches a campaign focused on earning media (getting positive press coverage), little of it is simply there for publicity. They want to promote their brands, give an adrenaline boost to their marketing goals and validate their services with third party credibility.

When executed correctly, a strategic PR campaign can be the catalyst for achieving any or all of the above.

Related: 3 Ways Direct-to-Consumer Brands Can Benefit from Media Coverage

credibility development

When looking at public relations through the narrow lens of advertising, small businesses are unlikely to achieve any of those meaningful goals. They don’t even get ads because PR isn’t ads. An advertisement is an advertisement.

To be clear, advertising is the use of paid promotions in the marketing process, usually in the form of commercials, digital ads, billboards, etc. On the other hand, PR focuses on developing trust and awareness, rather than directly soliciting products or services.

Credibility is the key. In the context of public relations, this is often established by press coverage, authorship, awards, participation in public speaking, and endorsement by influencers. Because advertising is bought – not earned – it lacks the kind of validity that good public relations can provide.

Related Topics: The most important trends that will affect the PR industry in 2022

How does public relations promote growth?

The press coverage itself is propaganda. This is not what small businesses want. What brings it all together is the process of gaining credibility and benefiting from it. For brands, it is an integrated strategy that integrates PR success into multiple marketing sectors.

This will include maintaining a press page on the company’s website to showcase positive media coverage. Other popular forms include leveraging PR success through social media and email marketing.

When brands fail to incorporate their PR success into their marketing goals, efforts often fail to achieve any meaningful business goals. However, once small businesses evolve beyond the mindset of free advertising, then they can truly unleash the full power of PR.

Related Topics: Technology is changing PR and marketing forever



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