Why Public Relations Can Be More Valuable Than Advertising

The Internet and digital technology have arguably ushered in a new golden age of advertising, with tracking links, ad targeting, and big data analytics enabling brands to quantify the bang they get for their buck like never before — but it’s also the case that audiences are more skeptical of advertising than ever. At the same time, PR presents the perfect complement to advertising by excelling in the latter’s core area of weakness: producing media placements the audience can trust.

Ads are “paid media,” which the audience must naturally view as biased (and has developed a resistance to). As an alternative to this, PR creates “earned media” – articles and reporter coverage which comes across as endorsed by the publication publishing a story, and therefore important and worthy of the audiences’ attention. A recent Nielsen/inPowered study on the role of content in the consumer decision-making process found that PR efforts, in the form of expert content articles, can be 88% more likely to improve familiarity with a brand when compared to ads. Further making this point, Guerilla P.R. author Michael Levine has said that an article is “between 10 times and 100 times more valuable than an advertisement.”

Here are three ways we think PR can add greater value when compared with traditional advertising:

  • Validity

When a potential client sees articles or stories on your company published in various media outlets, they feel that you have more legitimacy as a company. The story comes from journalists themselves. This means that your product or service is newsworthy enough to get coverage and that there’s a reason for the buzz that has been created around your brand – it’s not a false buzz that you simply paid to create. Public relations also offers feedback from readers in the form of comments on the article site and, in most cases, social media metrics, while advertising is a one-way form of communication. Imagine a website with an article on your company surrounded by ads you’ve paid for – the way people consume information, they’re most likely to read the article on you while skipping over the advertisements around it. If they do rest their eyes on your advertisement, they might notice it, but in their minds they know that it was paid for. There is far less cynicism for news stories.

  • Cost

Public relations expenses are generally less than those for advertising. While this is not always true, there are usually more variables that need to be paid for when it comes to producing ads. Fees include everything from copywriting, art, design, etc., not to mention actually purchasing the ad space. PR doesn’t have as many moving parts in terms of how it operates, and, as stated above, can be even more likely to deliver a return on the investment.

  • It’s about brand, not spend

There’s a reason the list of the top brands in the world differs from the list of the biggest advertising spenders. Notice there’s not much overlap between the lists, especially at the top. The difference is that top brands have a heavy emphasis on strong public relations, and not on executing the largest ad budget. While advertising is great for promotional purposes, you can’t overlook the value that good PR can offer.