Well hello there!

“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start,” sings the plucky Fraulein Maria (a.k.a. Julie Andrews*) as she and the von Trapp children Do-Re-Mi their way through the streets of Austria in The Sound of Music.

So, in this brand-new public relations blog, let’s start with the difference between advertising and public relations.

First up, advertising. Think of advertising as paying to get just what you want, when you want it and where you want it. You have control of your message, your audience and the timing. And, in order to have that control, you’ll pay a certain dollar amount based on the size and demographic of that audience, as well as the number of times your ad runs.

Let’s walk through an example of an advertisement.

Say you decide to purchase an ad in your local newspaper about your new business. You determine the exact day when the ad will run, what it will say and how big or small it will be. You can choose color or black and white. You can choose full distribution to all that newspaper’s readers, or just a specific delivery area. You can decide if your ad will also appear in their online newspaper, or just in print.

You have total control over your message because you’re paying for that opportunity. Your ad will look just like you want it to, and that ad will run no matter what. Pretty great, right?

Well….yes and no. It depends on your strategy.

Remember, advertising is you talking about you. It is paid media.

Now, let’s talk about public relations.

Public relations (called simply PR for short) is other people talking about you – so it involves third party credibility. (And that’s a huge bonus!) However, there are no guarantees.

If a reporter from that same newspaper writes a positive story about your company, it is considered more credible to the reader. And, the story will live for a long time (maybe even forever?) on the internet! However, whether the newspaper actually publishes the story, when will it publish the story, where it falls within the newspaper pages, exactly what the story will say, which quotes from you they use (or don’t use), what photos or images are included (or not) — none of this is guaranteed.

Public relations is someone else talking about you. This is earned media.

Why should you care?

Because your customers do. They care — a lot.

This ADWEEK blog cites a Nielsen study on the role of content in consumer’s decision- making process. It concluded that PR is almost 90% more effective than advertising. (Yes, I see that this information is from 2014, but I gotta tell you — about a million different surveys over the years have basically said the same thing.)

In that same blog post author Robert Wynne is quoted as saying, “Not only is PR different from advertising – it’s still better. Advertising, you tell people how great you are. With publicity, others sing your praises. Which do you think is more effective?”

In doing PR for 30+ years, I sure know what I think.

Both paid media (advertising) and earned media (public relations) have their place in an overall marketing program. But it’s important to understand the differences between the two and keep their different strengths in next time you’re making a decision between advertising and public relations.

*OK, confession time. I have a “thing” for Julie Andrews! I was fortunate enough to handle public relations for the off-Broadway run of “Victor/Victoria” starring none other than the talented Julie Andrews. One night during the Minneapolis run, the set wasn’t working. So, Ms. Andrews sat down on the stage and entertained the audience with songs and answered their questions until the set started working again. She was a consummate pro, and the theater-goers that evening got a once-in-a-lifetime show!