PR or advertising – why PR needs to step up

Wed 24 Jul 2013

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Blog Author
Paul Rogers
Product Director

With advertising costs rising, M Lento wonders why PR is selling itself short.

Advertising costs are spiralling exponentially. For PR professionals, there’s no better time to sell themselves as providers of a clear, consistent, audience-focused message. But it seems the one thing the PR industry is not ‘making waves’ about is its own strengths.

Organisations have started to think twice about PR versus advertising investment. However, few PR people have been proactive in selling their services as the better option. Call it the PR industry’s cautious ‘wait and see’ attitude. There have been few articles in PR Week recognising the advantage of the current market situation.

PR can avoid the ‘frills’ that come with advertising copy and disseminate a concise message – without the advertising costs. And PR provides a far better profit margin in terms of time, effort and trust-building. This, in turn, often provides a better rate of return (ROR) than advertising.
An ROR pitch, coupled with expert writing skills and an audience focus, can bring astounding results

The PR industry knows how to make waves, but it’s not as good at understanding what lies beneath. PR should recognise its direct relationship to clients’ bottom-line profit margins. This should start pre-career. University PR courses have failed to identify the distinct advantage of PR to rate of return. They tend not to focus on the PR professional’s journalistic ‘nose’ and skills as a writer. These are skills the graduate could self-promote, in a market where the message is increasingly at a premium.

An ROR pitch, coupled with expert writing skills and an audience focus, can bring astounding results. This should have been the PR industry’s launch pad since TBGDigital predicted spiralling advertising costs in January 2012. PR people need a better grounding in market issues and to be ready to sell themselves as the drivers of the message. They should highlight their ability to reach target audiences, turn negatives to positives and commit to ethics and green agendas. Most of all, they should sell their ability to produce a salient cross-platform message at a lesser cost than advertising.
The industry needs to realise that time is of the essence

I blame my first PR internship for this perspective. When I started at Elmhurst Theatre Company I was told there was no advertising budget and to read all I could on theatre. I did, and wrote over 30 articles, features and news releases in a 6 week period. I learned the skill of producing a holistic cross-platform message and style. I doubt many advertising campaigns could have provided the same column inches.

Global communications are demanding more than a one off advertisement to spread the message. PR can deliver…but the industry needs to realise that time is of the essence.