Free Advertising: What PR Gets You For Half-Price

Sure, advertising is effective for some goods and services. It permeates everything we read in the news, watch on television or even glance toward driving down the highway. It bonks us over the head with messages about products, services and company images until we submit to buying or simply recognize the brand, so advertising proponents say. But to small businesses owners, advertising often becomes the enemy, a foe that pulls you in with its track record but slaps you on the wrist with its price tag.

Stop, step back and breathe. We have a solution. Free advertising? Not exactly but pretty much. There’s no getting around this one either—public relations is a slippery subject. On the one hand, Andrew Cohen and Scott McClellan may sum up PR as chop full of flacks, but as with every profession, undue criticism creeps up every now and then. On most days and in most firms, though, we are a class of credibility-boosters, sales-increasers, newsmakers and certainly budget-cutters. How? We do something advertising could never do and for half the cost: establish your business as an industry expert in respected publications. “Free advertising” aside, you get an added bonus: third-party credibility. Anyone can run an ad. Only key players get published. Here are the requirements:
1) Actual industry expertise. This one’s not a toughie—everyone is an expert at something. That’s why you’re in business, right?
2) A public relations firm that fits. Shop around until you find someone who meets your needs. We specialize in tailor-fit PR for growing businesses, and know the local and regional media like the back of our hands. But if you’re looking to hit a small market really hard, like let’s say, Kalamazoo, Michigan, a local PR firm might be the best route.
3) Unflinching commitment. To get that full-page spread or glowing blurb about your company, advertising isn’t the only fool-proof method.
4) Leftover ad dollars. All right, so everyone knows that nothing is 100% free. While the cost of the average PR push is 1/58 of an advertising campaign (according to The Fall of Advertising by Alan & Laura Ries), most practitioners charge an hourly fee. Calm down—think about it like this. Paying an experienced professional for a few hours to write, distribute and publish a press release pales in comparison to funding a full-page ad, not to mention design and printing costs.

So, here’s the bottom line for your bottom line: PR pays. Your customers (current and future) read an article about you and think “Wow, they really know their stuff.” It may seem like “free advertising” to you, but to the naked eye, it’s credibility, respectability and industry expertise—isn’t that what you ultimately want to convey? We dare you to try it!

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