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Advertising vs. PR in Your Small Business Marketing Strategy
by: J D Moore
Copyright 2009 J D Moore

A great small business marketing strategy includes a mix of tactics. Advertising and PR are two very important tools that all small business owners need to be using regularly. Many small businesses I talk to do one of the other, but don't commit to doing both. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and are complimentary to each other.

Small Business Advertising Strengths:
-The biggest advantage with small business advertising is your complete control over the message. You get to focus on whatever you want, write the text, and choose the visuals. You ensure that your marketing message is delivered.

-You control placement. You choose the exact timing and media in which your advertising is placed. This is a huge advantage because naturally you are going to choose to place your ads where your target market is most likely to see them.

-You can repeat your messages over and over again. Effective small business marketing incorporates a high degree of repetition and consistency. Advertising can and should be run on regular schedules.

-With advertising, you (and your budget) control your marketing saturation. You can run the same ad across different publications serving the same market, run matching Internet advertising, put an ad on the radio, do cable TV, do outdoor advertising, etc. Ideally you need to be reaching your target market at least 4 different ways for them to respond.

Advertising Weaknesses
-Advertising generally costs money. Most small businesses don't have a huge budget for marketing. Sometimes being creative can help defray costs. Sometimes you can trade for advertising space. You may be able to do co-op advertising.

-Small business advertising needs to be very targeted to be effective. Sometimes the only choices you have in your community are mass-market like newspapers. You still need to advertise, but some of your marketing dollars will be spent to advertise to people who don't want or need what you're selling.

-Most small business advertising stinks. I hate to say it, but it's true. Many do-it-yourself advertisers don't understand that there are advertising fundamentals that work. A good ad will always out-pull a bad one. Here's my plug: If you can't invest the time and money to learn how advertising REALLY works, get yourself a small business marketing coach to help you build more effective campaigns. It will be money well invested.

PR Strengths:
-It's FREE! OK, you might incur a very small charge if you hire someone to write and distribute a press release for you, but this is minimal. I think the reason why most small businesses don't do PR is that they don't know how it's done. Again, get some coaching, or pay someone to do it for you.

-Press is trusted more than advertising. If you read a review that says that a new restaurant is the best thing in town, there's some credibility there. We tend to assume that a person who is writing an article is an expert, and that they are an uninterested third party.

-You can distribute PR globally. As long as what you are doing is actually interesting globally, you can distribute your press releases globally. This isn't necessarily as targeted as your advertising needs to be, but you're not paying for editorial. By the way, never pay for editorial, and don't advertise with media that promises to give you editorial as long as you advertise. This is unethical and transparent - and the credibility of the media will always be in question.

PR Weaknesses:
-You have no control over what the press is actually going to write or say about you. They may spell your name wrong, they may get some details wrong, they may choose to focus on something you don't want to highlight. In general this isn't a big issue, as long as they are saying good things about you.

-PR tends to be single exposure. Unless circumstances are really unusual, the press is not going to run the same story over and over again. I have been involved with an exception to that. I was doing something that corresponded with a current event and the press came to me again and again over 4 weeks for TV interviews. This was pure timing. It's difficult to engineer press like that without seeming mercenary.

-There is no guarantee that you're even going to get coverage. I was called to do a TV interview once and rushed into the city to meet the reporter and photographer. On my way in ,the reporter called me on my cell phone to tell me they were pulling the story because there was breaking news that they had to go cover. Depending on what's going on you may get tons of press or none at all.

You see that small business advertising and PR are different things. You need them both, and you need to work at both of them consistently. They are two important tools in your small business marketing toolbox.

About the author:
J D Moore - Marketing Comet Does your small business marketing stink? Let's fix it!

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