“Can you get me in the business section of the New York Times?!” “We think we have a great new app that should be featured in Mashable.” “The Today Show is the type of PR I am looking for.” “Can you get us some buzz?”
As a PR professional, I have heard statements or similar for years. I smile, nod and ask them what their product or company’s differentiating feature is. How do they compare to the competition? What’s some interesting back story on the company or its workers? What makes them “newsworthy?”
Because therein lies the difference between publicity and advertising.
The traditional silos of advertising and publicity are blurring, due to the rise of DVRs and the need to find more disruptive advertising, combined with shrinking newsrooms, fewer “gatekeepers” and more self-published content through the web and social media. However, traditional venues remain the gold standard for publicity, and clients continue to embrace their value and seek those opportunities.
Many savvy entrepreneurs and even established businesspeople are unfamiliar with the process by which many of these stories they see come about. Sure, if you’re a household name, or you are the first one headed to space or some other interesting feat, you are bound to get news coverage just by breathing.
But what if you are an awesome financial advisor? Or are introducing a weather-related app? Or have new menu items at your restaurant? Or have written a book on workplace productivity?
These are the types of products and companies with tons of competition for news space, and you are going to have to work a lot harder to get your name and company noticed by reporters, and therefore the public.
In this four-part series, I am going to explore:
- How Advertising and Publicity Differ
- How to Identify Newsworthy Stories in your Organization
- How to Work with the Media
- How to Leverage Resulting Coverage Among Key Audiences
So, on to: How advertising and PR differ.
“Get the Door, It’s Domino’s!”
“Think Outside the Bun”
“Frost Brewed. Coors Light: The World’s Most Refreshing Beer”
Most of us recognize these slogans. They have been pounded into our brain through smart media placement and repetition.
That is advertising: choosing the right mix of the medium, the message and the frequency.
But publicity is much more subtle. It usually takes much more time to develop. And it pays dividends because of the “halo effect” of third-party credibility bestowed on companies who are featured in the media.
Here are some key differences between advertising and publicity.
Advertising is “bought” media. You buy the space, and you tell them when, where and how often you want your message to run.
Publicity is “earned” media. You have to interest a reporter in your story and then you give him or her the tools to tell it, but they decide if and how they will tell it.
With advertising you control the message – you say exactly what you want with the exact words you want.
With publicity, you help to craft the message but ultimately, the resulting story is in the hands of the reporter or editor. A public relations professional can help you improve your message delivery to ensure the best chance of being portrayed how you want, but at the end of the day you have little control.
With advertising, you can use the same message over and over – in the same outlet or in different ones simultaneously. People expect to see the same ad over various platforms, and it can have a long shelf life.
With publicity, you need fresh, “newsworthy” angles every time you pitch a story – whether it’s to the same publication/outlet or a new one. No one wants to see the same story more than once.
With advertising, your audience is not surprised if you exaggerate your claims a bit. Will that new gum…or perfume…or car really make you more attractive to the opposite sex? People know they are being sold.
With publicity, you better have your facts straight and present them accurately. Editors want back up for any claims you offer. Does your perfume actually make you more attractive to the other sex? You better have a survey or scientific evidence that says so. Now, THAT would be newsworthy!
“Paid media” and “earned media” are both an important part of the marketing mix. The key is knowing the difference between them, and not expecting the process to be the same.
So, when you ask me to “get you on TV” with your claim that your app can control the weather, I’ll suggest you buy an ad. When you show me how your weather app can make it snow, I will call up Al Roker and get you an appearance on the Today Show. Believe me, you will have earned it!
~ ~ ~
Series on Working with the Media
- Part 1: Top Story? Or First Commercial Break? How Advertising and PR Differ
- Part 2: 7 Ways to Identify Newsworthy Stories in your Organization
- Part 3: Telling Your Story: Tips for Working with the Media
- Part 4: How to Leverage Your Media Exposure: Making the Most of Your 15 Minutes of Fame
by Cathie Ericson