Why are businesses willing to pay for public relations services? Well, quite simply, because it works – better than any other type of marketing, in fact.
And it will continue to work, and work well, because PR is especially suited to our digital age – in which mass market advertising and other forms of ‘interrupting’ marketing become increasingly irrelevant and easy to ignore.
Public relations works because it is, fundamentally, about providing useful information. That is, unlike TV and radio spots, print ads, bus wraps, flyers, banner ads and the especially annoying spots than run before online videos, PR is marketing that people actually seek out, instead of actively avoid.
When you seek information, you are likely to take it seriously and act on it. And that is the value of PR – it leads to action, which, of course, is the goal of all marketing.
When most people think of public relations, they think of publicity, and that is certainly a key component of what we do. PR also includes social media marketing, content marketing, blogging, events, awards, speaking engagements, strategic partnerships and word-of-mouth. Again, the common thread throughout all of these tactics is providing information that people want.
There are several advantages of providing useful information versus sales messages. They include:
- Credibility: For example, a news story is perceived as more believable than an advertisement because it carries an implied third party endorsement. That is, readers/viewers/listeners know that the information they receive from a news media outlet had to be deemed valuable by someone in the news organization who is not beholden to the organization covered in the story. They also know that anyone with a checkbook can run an ad in the same news outlet. (The blending of advertising and publicity, in which someone pays the news outlet to run a story – i.e., “advertorials” or “native advertising” – is the worst kind of marketing, because it looks like you are trying to fool the viewer.)
- Buzz: People are likely to share what they learned from reading a news story or a blog, or seeing a video on social media, or hearing someone speak at an event – because they learned useful information. Advertising rarely generates buzz, unless it is particularly creative – but then the buzz is about the ad, not the product.
- Legs: Public relations results have “legs” in that they can be repurposed to extend their value. For example, we encourage clients to email to clients and prospects copies of news stories we generate for them, to link to them on social media, to mention them during speaking engagements and to post them on their website. This leveraging of public relations results magnifies exposure of their message. PR is especially suited to the digital age because it produces useful information that is easy to share.
- Authority: People come to see your firm as an authority in your field, thus the best place to go when they want to buy what you are selling, when your company is regularly featured in news stories, blogs and other vetted media; when you win awards thanks to the efforts of your PR firm; when you partner with reputable organizations.