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Please don’t let me be misunderstood

As a mom and a PR practitioner, it seems I have taken on two roles that have been listed among the most under-appreciated professions. Not because we are not valued, but rather our work is often unseen. We run like well-oiled machines, and it’s not until that machine breaks down are we noticed. Although, in my ‘out of home’ career, I don’t have to dodge mac and cheese or control dramatic tantrums when this happens, one commonality is that in both positions, I am often misunderstood.

Working in B2B PR, specifically manufacturing, we are promoting products on a daily basis. And breaking through the clutter is a hard task, especially when it’s our job to differentiate the message from “buy this product” to “this is important because”. Marketers are often tasked with doing both. However, here within lies the problem, because they are not one in the same.

Screaming from the rooftops

You may be thinking: does she really believe I don’t know the difference between PR and advertising? While this topic may seem elementary, I frequently find myself explaining why, in fact, PR is not advertising. Even the most savvy marketers and professionals sometimes make the mistake of grouping them together. Therefore, we felt the topic warranted a revisit.

There is an old phrase that goes, “Advertising is what you pay for, and publicity is what you pray for.” Advertising is paid media, public relations is earned media. While this may seem obvious, there is still a common misconception about how they differ in achieving your marketing goals. Both effective, the messages, method of attaining, and outcome vary.

Advertising is turning up the volume to full blast while having your windows rolled down, and PR is the talk radio discussing how liberating it is to roll down the windows and turn up the volume to full blast. Make sense? In advertising you scream how great you are, and with PR you let someone else say it for you. One focuses on the market and building sales by getting into the wallets of consumers and the other, builds relationships and trust, getting into their hearts and minds. Advertising is about the product, PR is about the relationship, creating a need around a product.

Our differences are our strengths

PR professionals are storytellers. Typically discussing a problem in the industry and our client’s unique solution. Industry experts believe that because the consumer doesn’t feel overtly sold to, this approach carries more impact and credibility than a full page branded ad taken out by the company. Everyday consumers are influenced by stories generated by public relations agencies without ever knowing that it is from the company itself. Never underestimate the power the media holds and the work your agency does to persuade them to write about you. They ultimately control your destiny as a brand – it sounds somewhat ominous, and a bit discouraging perhaps, but think of all of the clutter in the ad world, and with DVR and the ability to turn off company branded messaging, the stories that are carefully written and formulated by you and your PR team are the key to hooking consumers and loyal advocates to your brand, and ultimately making you the leader in your field.

Using your PR power for good not evil

Public relations is like the two-faced superhero. It can be used for good and evil, depending on your perspective. A misquote, a reporter who didn’t do his or her due diligence before publishing an article, or a disgruntled employee can be detrimental to your reputation. And with the onset of social media, the effects of both good (and bad) PR can be long lasting with posts, re-posts and tweets. Therefore, while it may seem like a walk in the park to get out the good word, it’s no easy feat – I often recommend companies leave it up to the experts.

Now to bring it full circle, while your agency, like us mothers, are not superheroes, we do come pretty darn close. 😉

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