When it comes time to develop your brand’s marketing strategy, you will inevitably end up in the seemingly timeless debate of where and how to spend your budget. Will you spend it all on advertising, a public relations campaign or a blend of both? Will your money be better spent online in banner ads or on transit advertisements that broadcast your offerings directly to the public? Can you achieve the same level of awareness through a strategic public relations program as you could through a targeted ad buy? How will you approach the media with your story ideas and have them cover and include your company as a source?
As every business owner knows, advertising and public relations are popular, and necessary, mediums used by small and large businesses alike to achieve brand awareness among existing and prospective customers. It’s a rare instance when a marketing plan is complete without the inclusion of one (or both) of these strategies, due in large part to how effective each can be when executed properly. However, that doesn’t mean these are foolproof tactics or that there aren’t drawbacks or disadvantages to embarking upon an advertising or public relations campaign. The key is determining which methods will help you best achieve your goals, and subsequently understanding the shortcomings of each to better manage expectations.
Professional Pest Management Alliance Retains Well-Known Medical Spokesperson
Dr. Jorge Parada, a leading infectious disease specialist, will offer health perspectives about the dangers of pests.
“PPMA is thrilled to have Dr. Parada as our medical spokesperson. We are often asked about specific medical conditions and treatments as related to pests and their effects, but are not able to offer such advice. With the addition of Dr. Parada, we are able to provide not just entomological perspectives, but medical ones as well as we continue our efforts to educate the media and the public about the diseases and dangers of pests,” said Missy Henriksen, executive director of PPMA.
Parada received his bachelor of arts in social sciences from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, his doctor of medicine degree from Lisbon Medical School in Portugal and his masters of public health from Harvard University. Parada also completed an infectious diseases fellowship at Boston University and a health services research outcomes fellowship at Rush University and Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Parada also has served as course director for the Chicago Medical Society and the Chicago Department of Public Health’s programs on emergency preparedness for bioterrorism, pandemic/avian influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
It Pays to Advertise…or does it? The most common reasons many businesses choose to embark on advertising campaigns are to generate awareness of a brand or business, establish a brand identity and increase sales of a product or service. There is no doubt that these goals can be achieved through advertising, as long as you recognize that there are also certain disadvantages to be aware of when creating an ad campaign and making that media buy.
- It’s all in the buy: Advertising often can be expensive. When you are dealing with a small advertising budget, it can be difficult to decide where your limited dollars are best spent. Should you spread your purchase out by buying space in small publications, on websites with low traffic and on broadcast outlets during off-peak hours? Or aim to get more bang for your buck by blowing your budget on one large spend? Either way, you may be banking on a big return without much of a guarantee. Consider being creative with your spend by divvying it up among a variety of mediums, and work with media outlets to confirm how they’ll track the success of your placements and report back to you to ensure your dollars were well spent.
- Choose your medium. In recent years, the advent of online advertising has opened up countless opportunities for small business owners who may have relied solely on print, television and radio advertising in the past. With so many options, it can be daunting to determine which medium to choose for a campaign. Weigh those options thoroughly by identifying an audience and then seeking out their most utilized medium. Consider also the length and budget of the campaign before selecting which to employ. Some methods, like online banner advertisements, can offer great flexibility and ease for newcomers, while more traditional mediums may offer a more hands-off approach.
- Creativity counts. Everyone has seen an advertisement that reeks of low-production value and inexperience. Most everyone also has subsequently avoided patronizing that business because of that ad. Committing to an advertising campaign means understanding that it needs to be creative and distinct in order to be effective. If it’s not, it will have the adverse effect of turning customers off, rather than attracting them to learn more about your business. Take the time to determine your business’ unique selling proposition, what distinguishes you from others in the marketplace and what value you bring to customers, and craft your campaign message from there.
- Back it up. Successful advertising cannot exist within a vacuum. If you place an advertisement driving consumers to your website or social media profile to learn more about your business, those tools must be prepared for an influx of visitors, as well as contain the information and/or deals promised in said advertisement. If ads direct people to call your toll-free or general office line, also take time to ensure employees are prepped and ready to welcome the inquiries. Putting your message out to the masses is a great way to increase awareness, but make sure you are prepared to receive that increase with open arms and a well-trained customer service team.
Nothing like “free” publicity. Earned media placements garnered through public relations outreach are much more cost-effective than a paid advertisement, and a successful, proactive PR campaign can build credibility and awareness for a brand by positioning the company in a positive light as a trusted resource. As with advertising, there are many pitfalls to navigate and rules to heed when launching a PR campaign on behalf of your business. Keep these in mind when developing your PR strategy, and you’ll be seen as an authority in your industry.
- Is it newsworthy? For a business owner or manager, an announcement regarding a new service or acquisition may seem like it is worthy of front-page news. It can be difficult to see outside the bubble of your own brand and understand why a reporter may not share your opinion. Likewise, even the best PR pros sometimes have difficulty determining what a reporter will find newsworthy on any given day. Monitoring news coverage in your target market and in your desired publications religiously before making your pitch can make a difference.
- Patience is a virtue. The beauty of media relations is that sometimes it only takes one fantastic pitch or press release to get a reporter’s attention and garner coverage of your business. On the other hand, it also can take months of pitching various topics to multiple media contacts before even getting a response. Public relations is all about relationship building, something that often takes much longer than the relatively simple act of making an ad buy. Like so many things in life, it will pay off in the end, but be prepared for a marathon, not a sprint.
- Measuring success. A common question that arises when planning public relations campaigns is, “How can we measure success?” When 30 pitches result in only one media placement, that can be a tough question to answer. When it comes to identifying PR success metrics, the rule is quality, as opposed to quantity. PR should be thought of as a credibility builder. When done right, it can instill trust among consumers and boost a brand’s reputation and visibility over the long haul. It can be impossible to assign specific values to the success of a PR campaign, but the real value of building a reliable brand is truly immeasurable.
Finding the perfect blend. Ultimately, the type of marketing strategy to employ will be determined by your company’s goals. Are you hoping to increase overall awareness of your business among regional consumers? Trying to spread the word about a special, limited-time offer? Aiming to increase sales by a certain percentage? By pinpointing exactly what you are looking to achieve, you can more easily decide what blend of marketing tactics can help you reach those goals. More often than not, the most effective strategy will include a blend of both advertising and public relations measures that work together and complement one another.
The author is executive director of the Professional Pest Management Alliance. E-mail her at email@example.com.