The explosion of communications channels — from cable TV stations to email to social media — has complicated the process of getting your message to your target audience. The decline of traditional media such as local newspapers and the invention of ad-blocking technology such as TiVo and Caller ID add to the complication.
Organizations with a message, whether about a product or an issue, face the daunting challenge of how to place that message in front of the target audience so it is seen or heard at a price they can justify and afford.
Many organizations have abandoned or at least demoted the use of paid advertising and replaced it with old-fashioned public relations — finding a way to get a positive mention on a TV show, in a news story or in some other trusted content. A good way to think about the contrast is that advertising pushes a message, while PR creates something that draws attention.
Another emerging dimension of PR is its role in forging relationships between a company and a customer. That can take the form of engagement with customers on a company database or creating a direct-market channel through social media sites, such as Facebook and YouTube.
As the health care industry is learning, people want to be part of the process, not just patients on the other end of the stethoscope. Marketing in this industry is shifting from billboards to collaboration in search of the right procedure or medication and a healthier lifestyle to extend the quality of life.
It helps that PR strategies are usually a lot cheaper than advertising-led campaigns. Developing a clever idea or quality content can earn coverage that can be leveraged across media channels, at little or no additional cost. People with smart phones, laptops and tablets are interested in fresh, engaging content. PR can deliver it.
Content has a longer shelf life in the digital world than advertising. People search for content —including ads — they want to see.
Advertising isn't without value. It remains the tried-and-true way to sustain brand awareness. And advertising can be and is often part of a comprehensive PR strategy, just not its core. Good PR involves integrating many elements and multiple channels to spark and sustain a continuing conversation.
For too long, PR has been the choice of organizations that couldn't afford advertising. Now PR has become the best and most cost-effective option to reach and build a bond with your target audience.