As a small business owner, you’ve been thinking about how to spend the money you’ve set aside for marketing in 2013. But there’s one big question: How do you spend it? Do you hire a public relations agency? Or invest in advertising?
I applaud those of you who accurately selected the former. But those of you who picked the latter, we need to talk. Sure, advertising is a sure thing. But a sure thing isn’t always the best thing. So let’s talk.
Small Business Owner: OK well, I heard US companies spend $150 billion annually on advertising and only $5 billion on public relations. That has to mean advertising is where it’s at, right?
Aimee: In some instances, advertising is a good idea. However, $150 billion spent on advertising and only $5 billion on public relations is a surprising gap. That’s a lot of cash going toward quarter page ad spaces instead of something more valuable – third party credibility. With public relations, you’re not just broadcasting your products or services. You have professionals strategically influencing decisions via storytelling and community engagement. Public relations professionals dig deep into both your audience and your brand to find ways you can benefit each other organically.
Small Business Owner: You’ve got me there. But here’s another question. PR can’t be measured or tracked, right?
Aimee: This is just plain false. It’s just as possible to track the bottom line in PR as it is in advertising. Getting media coverage is just the one step out of many in the public relations process. PR doesn’t have to stand for press release. PR has shifted to telling stories by integrating media relations, social media, events, and community engagement (and a dash of pixie dust). You can track how many times an article was shared on social platforms, which drive more human communication than that banner ad ever will. PR pros can identify and reach out to the biggest influencers to get them talking about your brand, and take those relationships offline to an event setting that will drive even more community engagement. It’s the relationship that keeps on growing.
Small Business Owner: A friend said all public relations professionals do is spam journalists. How do you respond to that one?
Aimee: Dear lazy PR professionals, look at what you’ve done. A good PR professional and/or functional human knows better than to mass email journalists. We read the news. We pay attention to what journalists are writing, and we make sure our stories fit each writer’s specific interests and needs. We are ALWAYS strategically thinking about our clients’ brands and ways they will interest and benefit the public – even when we want to hit the “off” button on “work mode.” We are 24/7 advocates for our clients, and will never send out a mass email. Remember the third-party credibility I mentioned earlier? This is how PR pros build trustworthy relationships with journalists. And really, all PR pros shouldn’t be judged by the lazy behaviors of some. Are all graphic designers talentless because of those tasteless ads out there? No!
With good public relations and its story-telling nature, you’re building stronger relationships and leaving more memorable impressions on your audience than an advertisement ever will. And that… That is something you can’t put a price on.
Aimee Woodall is the owner of Black Sheep Agency. You can contact her at
832.971.7725 or email her [email protected]