Building Your Business: Advertising Vs. PR

by Tom Egelhoff

From the day you open the first rule of business we all hear is "get the word out", "get the word out." So we advertise, then analyze and see what happens. Then we advertise some more and analyze some more - then we analyze our analyzation. And usually end up more confused about our advertising than we were before we started.

Is spending money on advertising the answer? If it were, Steve Forbes would be president. Ford, which spends $314.00 per vehicle on advertising, would outsell Chevy, which only spends $170.00 per vehicle. Instead Chevy sells 33% more than Ford. K-Mart spends $542 million to Wal-Mart's $498 million. Who do you think gets the short end of that stick? Wal-Mart does four times the sales K-Mart does even with Martha Stewart. Take Starbuck's Coffee's ad budget less than $10 million in ten years to produce yearly sales of around $1.3 billion.

So how does PR (Public Relations) enter this equation? Take the case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Brothers, Inc. Samara Brothers, Inc. sued Wal-Mart for making "knock-off's" of their line of children's clothes. The Supreme Court ruled that Samara Bros clothing was not "distinctive" enough to be a protected brand like the Nike "swoosh" for example. Even though the company label was on the clothing people would not automatically know who made it. So building the brand name of your business in the minds of consumers can be a protection as well as a powerful business tool.

Let's look at a "real world" example of advertising vs. PR. For the sake of this example I'll use a newspaper ad. In the world of advertising you would take out an ad in the local paper and cross your fingers and hope for the best. The next day the ad is gone and maybe people remembered it and maybe they didn't. You might have included an offer or special deal in the ad so that some people might save it. More than likely your customer will look at competitor's ads also and do some comparison-shopping before visiting you.

Now let's look at the same thing with PR. You are reading a copy of 12Volt News and low and behold Radical Radio has a new XYZ audio widget that will revolutionize the audio industry. You tear out the article, attach your business card and send it off to the local paper. The same one you have your ad in. Enclose a note that you would be happy to explain how this innovation affects audio enthusiasts in (your home town).

The newspaper calls you and quotes you in an article in a section of the paper commonly read by audio customers. The same section you have your ad in. When people read the article and see your quote what does that make you? Exactly the reader instantly perceives you as an expert in the industry. Why else would the paper have contacted you instead of someone else? Which would you feel sends the stronger message to the customer the ad, which is pretty much like your competitors, or the label of "expert" put on you by the article?

Trust me this works unless they decide not to print it. Then you simply send the next best thing you read the next time. I have been in several national magazines reaching millions of people for less than $100.00 total. I simple approached editors with interesting information or a new way of saying something about what I do and you can do the same thing.

Now, am I telling you to stop advertising? Of course not. You are in a very competitive industry and you do need to keep your name out there but also consider adding low or no cost PR along with it. Newspapers, radio, magazines are clamoring for information and story ideas every day. They are always looking for help. Why not help them out a little.


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