So what is public relations anyway? I have tried to explain it to friends and family for years but ironically I am not so sure I’ve done a great job communicating what it is I do for a living. Maybe if I put it down in writing…
Ever read a magazine, a newspaper, an online site or listened to the radio or watched television? If so, you’ve most certainly witnessed the result of a public relations campaign. Sure there’s advertising in all those mediums, which is easier to recognize, but there’s also a public relations team working behind the scenes with the content decision makers to fill space and airtime with compelling stories.
Editors, reporters and assignment managers take our calls because we’ve established longstanding and productive relationships with them. We offer stories about our clients that we know will be interesting to their readers, listeners and viewers. If we didn’t they’d stop taking our calls and we’d be out of business. To be fair, they enterprise many of their own stories but they simply don’t have the time or resources to do it alone. And that’s where we come in.
So then what’s the difference between advertising and public relations? Well, they both serve a valuable purpose and in a perfect world they work hand-in-hand reinforcing the same brand message, just in different ways. With advertising you are completely in control of what you are communicating.You decide where and when to run your campaign and you determine both reach and frequency based on your budget. Your campaign can build brand awareness and drive results through a direct call to action. Done well it is extremely effective as you can see by our case studies in the WORK section of our web site.
With public relations you give up the certainty of when and where your story will appear but you gain the credibility of a third-party endorsement. A cover story in Sunset Magazine, an interview on The TODAY Show, a feature story in the New York Times or an article on CNN.com are priceless placements that provide an outstanding return on our clients’ investment in public relations. Each of these opportunities carries an independent perspective to the consumer. Editorial content with any medium allows you to go into great detail about your brand. And, whether or not they spend time thinking about it, the consumer understands there was a gatekeeper that objectively thought the story was worth bringing to their attention. This provides outstanding and valuable credibility.
So the next time you read the paper or a blog, listen to talk radio or watch a newscast, rest assured a public relations professional likely had something to do with that story being shared.
Hamilton McCulloh, executive director with GreenRubino, has more than 25 years of experience in television production and public relations.