Thursday, June 30, 2011

Who's winning the space race?

       The space I'm talking about is the space in the consumer's heart and brain, which would be the perfect spots for your brand.

       Yesterday a friend and colleague, Amy Kweskin, an accomplished observer of the media scene, asked how I see public relations fitting into the thoughts I put forward in my first blog. (Amy teaches PR and is a leader in the field of international arts management, so her insights are undoubtedly miles ahead of mine. But I'll answer directly anyway.)

       First, public relations is in a much better position to participate in social media than advertising is (although advertising agencies are rapidly advancing). Social media is all about relationships and for PR, relationships are the name of the game. While advertising has been focusing on one-way persuasion, using a huge megaphone, PR has been listening and conversing and discussing and enlightening and responding since Edward Bernays created the profession, calling it "the engineering of consent".

       Second, PR also has the strength of third-party endorsements. When a national magazine or TV network runs a story about a product or a company, that story is coming to the consumer from a chosen and trusted source. That beats an ad every time.

       PR is also less expensive, and the "ink" a client gets in the press is free, and can be worth a fortune.

       But a realistic marketing program needs both PR and advertising.

       That's because PR, for all its potential, cannot guarantee a client that its story will be told exactly the way the client wants, or even at all. That's up to editors and reporters in the media to decide. Advertising, on the other hand, can guarantee your message will be presented exactly the way you want it to be. After all, the client is paying for it. That's why the giant brands spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising, as well as have significant PR budgets.

       So who will win the race for space in the hearts and minds of consumers? Those marketeers with a true understanding of the consumer; who know her well enough to see things her way,  fulfill her needs, help her out, show her new opportunities, and even let her have some fun in the process.

       I believe public relations and advertising, when they work hand in hand, will get there first.

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