One of the perennial discussion topics about advertising and public relations is their seemingly antagonistic perspectives about each other. Ad folks say PR is unpredictable, and PR folks say advertising is too expensive and performs as poorly or worse. Rather than approach the topic as an either/or, a helpful change of perspective is to look at how and when they work together.
In a recent post, we shared a way to look at real-time marketing and PR using inflection points to understand when something is going to get a lot of attention. That curve tends to look like this over time:
The topic gains ground, explodes in a mass of attention, and then eventually settles down. In an advertising-only perspective of the world, this tends to happen:
You spot a hot topic and immediately begin bidding on it, trying to take advantage of the topic to drive traffic to your digital properties. However, once the topic gets really hot, bid prices for related terms and keywords climb with the attention, and unless you have the deepest of pockets, at a certain point your campaign runs out of money or it becomes unprofitable to run advertising at the same rate.
In a PR-only perspective of the world, this tends to happen:
PR helps you to capitalize on the topic’s attention, but then after the big surge of attention comes and goes, PR’s effectiveness tends to wane for that given topic. A good example of this? Buzzfeed’s attention getting titles. We’re somewhere on the far end of that curve for the style. It started out as an effective and interesting tool to get attention, evolved into overuse, before moving on to being scorned. Any blog posts, or advertising, you wanted to do around the topic of the Buzzfeed style passed on being effective a while back. (Which isn’t to say that the technique doesn’t work any longer. That’s another discussion altogether.) The news, by definition, wants things that are new, and if you’re pitching old news, no one wants to write about it or you.
Logically, wouldn’t it make sense to capitalize on the strengths of each channel? Pay money for advertising when interest is lower and bid prices are lower, pay money for public relations when a topic hits its inflection point and races ahead of the crowd and its ad budget. Once the news cycle has run its course and the news doesn’t want to cover a topic that’s no longer new, return to advertising to capture the remnant interest and sustain attention. Here’s what the ideal scenario might look like:
The choice of “advertising or PR” is a false choice. Each has its strengths and each has its deficiencies. Blending the two intelligently to leverage the strengths of each and mitigate each others’ weaknesses, using paid/earned/owned smartly, is the best choice for any brand looking to make its mark on the world.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology