It seems that a lot of people, including those directly involved in the industry, don’t understand the nature of public relations, or PR as it is known. Ultimately, the goal of PR (as in this link and the logo to the left) is to get the attention of the public in a favourable light.
The same is true of advertising, but there are some crucial differences in the approach. For an SME (acronym for small and medium enterprises) the differences can make or break the company. The reason comes down to relative cost and return on investment.
While advertising and PR both fall into the ‘marketing’ category, the former is paid for by the agency that is trying to sell the product, while the latter involves getting free (and favourable) publicity for that product.
This applies to anything from politics to chewing gum. With advertising you can say just about anything you want to make your product sound attractive, or look attractive in the case of visuals. With PR, the idea is to get a neutral third party to endorse the product for you.
Even the most unsophisticated consumer knows that an ad is trying to sell something. The attraction may be low cost, convenience, durability, curlier hair, better petrol mileage, whatever it takes to convince the consumer that he or she needs that product.
Good PR, on the other hand, is the unbiased report on the product from a customer or from a known and trusted public figure or company. In essence, SMEs need specifically directed media coverage, and PR is generally the most effective means to this end.