Do you need a PR team – or advertising agency?

I met recently with an executive of a growing technology firm. Approximately five years in the making, this company has grown to 18 FTEs and is now being used by their hyper-targeted audience in 13 different states. We were talking about how he and his CEO had been doing all their own marketing and social media since the inception of the company.

“Wow, that’s pretty impressive,” I said. “You have saved a fortune.”

He looked at me, head tilted, and said, “I wonder if we need PR?”

I wondered, too. In spending the next few minutes talking about their goals and employee expansion plans for the next three years, I knew the answer. Absolutely.

Why? Because they’ve spent the last several years in sales mode. Now, with bigger aims of securing the hearts and minds of not just their immediate audience but also those who influence the purchase decision, investors and thought leaders.In fact, we’re sure that what they do is newsworthy, and should be framed as such.  So, now is the time to begin that framing and earn that buzz.  

But how do we know that it’s PR they need and not advertising? That comes back to the basics of what public relations is. It’s interesting how often people ask me what I do, and when I say public relations they say, “ok, but what do you do?” 

Here’s a little bit of what we do – and why it’s hard to pigeonhole a day-in-the-life. We:

  • Shape images and frame messages, providing a positive and distinctive position for our clients;
  • Create and manage reputations that earn stature;
  • Create and tell stories that draw audiences and explain company differentiation;
  • Facilitate relationships that are mutually beneficial; and
  • Distribute information that drives call-to-action and business/marketing goals.

All of these deliverables are what public relations professionals think about daily. The tools we use to accomplish the goal can vary from media relations to social media and beyond. But to help you differentiate between PR and Advertising/Marketing, I turn to a colleague. The owner of another boutique PR firm, Robert Wynne, published this easy reference chart to help business people understand the difference between Advertising and PR:

The article was published in 2014, and one would dare say that the one big change between then and now is the idea that ads are mostly visual and PR uses more language. Given the preponderance of using social media to influence opinion, PR has truly added much visual to the game.

But the rest pretty much plays out. If you are focused on selling a product, advertise. If you are hoping to influence what people think of your company or your product, hire a PR team. If you’re a control freak, buy an ad. If you’re prepared to give experts the authority to review your product/service, hire a PR team. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how public relations can help you reach your goals, DM me @flackflicks – Ann’s personal handle – or reach all of us @fluentprspeaks. 

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