5 ways public relations builds brands and bottom lines

PR, or public relations to give it full credit, is often misunderstood. How does it differ to advertising, can it deliver an ROI? In this article, the answers to both these questions and more will be shared, along with insights into some of the biggest ways that PR creates impact for businesses.

10 May 2024 | 5 min read | Crisis Comms
Portrait photo of Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

According to data published by Statista, the global PR agency market was worth $17 billion in 2022 – an 11 per cent increase on the $15.3 billion recorded in 2021. By comparison, advertising revenues were hovering around the £39 billion mark in the UK alone over the same period.

Looking at both sets of figures leads one to assume that advertising is the promotional tool of choice for businesses and brands, and that is a fair assumption to make. But that wouldn’t be telling the full story.

When once it was a ‘nice to have if we have some spare cash left in the pot’ and the ugly sister to its advertising sibling, PR is now taking centre stage and increasingly considered as important if not more so than its traditional bedfellows.

There are several reasons for this. First, there is the impact that the pandemic of 2020 had on the way in which businesses ‘think’ about how they engage their target audiences, and we’ll cover this in greater detail below.

But one of the biggest reasons for this shift towards PR is an increased awareness of the business benefits to be gained from having a sound PR strategy in place.

What’s the difference between advertising and PR?

At this point, it’s worth taking a moment to remind ourselves of the difference between PR and advertising. Our definition is this:

  • Advertising happens when your business pays a media outlet to share content that tells your target audience what makes you the great organisation you are.
  • PR, however, is what happens when a media outlet decides that you have a great story worth sharing and opts to tell your target audience all about it without the need for you to pay them for the priviledge of doing so. It’s what they call ‘third party endorsement.’

Which one of these do you think has the greatest influence in shaping the way that your target audience perceives you and your suitability as a potential supplier or product provider of choice?

Take a look at our Media Relations service. Click here.
How the pandemic brought PR to the top of the promotional agenda

Advertising and marketing had been the promotional vehicles of choice for many businesses and brands before the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, often accounting for a larger proportion of spend. PR still received a decent amount but not as much as perhaps it should. That quickly changed.

Customers, consumers, clients – whatever you call the people who buy from you – no longer wanted to be sold to in the traditional salesy sort of way. Rather, they became thoughtful consumers who want a better brand experience to what they were used to.

This has continued and is likely to remain so for some time still. The people you want to do business with are increasingly basing their purchasing decisions on trust, values, understanding, and impact created by the brands and businesses they hand over their cash to.

5 ways that PR surpasses all other forms of promotion

Advertising and marketing can work wonders in successfully building awareness of your brand, but to truly win favour you need to balance it out with PR.

Here are five ways that public relations (and public relations professionals specifically) can and does build brand equity and boost bottom line sales:

1. PR positions you as a go-to product or service provider:

The more people talk about what you do, the greater the positive perception associated with your name, which in turn influences buyer decision making.

2. PR demonstrates your expertise, experience, credentials, and trustworthiness:

With advertising you tell people how great you are, but with PR others perform this role for you and this helps build trust in your brand.

3. PR boosts the executive profile of your most important people and raises them up to be seen as true industry thoought leaders:

Quotes, bylines, and interviews with the media only happen because a journalist sees you as an expert in your field or subject – if they see you as such so will your customers.

4. PR has a proven return on investment that is higher than advertising:

By remaining front of mind with your target audience by repeatedly talking about the challenges and pains they are facing you gain greater favour with them than if you are constantly bombarding them with sales messages about how great you are. Trust me, I sold advertising for over 10 years and whilst the ROI can be very good it pales into insignificance compared to that generated by PR over the mid- to long-term.

5. PR can get you ouf of the sh*t when crisis strikes:

If your company has made a boo-boo and found itself in hot water, whether self-inflicted or not, it is PR that will calm the waters and see your business emerge with its reputation intact. Or even strengthened, as has often been the cases with our clients.

Just one more thing before you go

Whilst tempting to batten down the hatches and cut your overall marketing budgets to keep as much cash in the business as possible during uncertain economic times, this is a mistake.

We saw during the pandemic and recession of 2008-11 that those businesses and brands that went into marketing hibernation mode until the storm blew over struggled to regain their market position afterwards.

The reason? Simple: their competiton stayed the course. They remained present and relevant in the eyes of their target market. In doing so, they reminded their customers and prospects that they were still there for them even if there was little or no money on the table to be exchanged at that point.

Re-ignite and start now PR now. Get in touch with us today.