Which Generates More Sales Leads, Advertising or Public Relations?

Buying ads in print B-to-B or B-to-C magazines and websites is a good way to tell people the name of your company, mention your products, and communicate your phone number and website address. Doesn’t sound all that bad, right? Well, consider this…

An active and strategic public relations plan does all of this, and more. With public relations, a third party (namely the media, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, etc.) informs your existing and potential customers or clients about your company, often with information that endorses your business and products. When editorial-based articles publish in print or online regarding you or your brand, people are naturally drawn to read and trust the information because it is reported to them by the editors of the publications, websites and blogs to which they subscribe. They trust the content in these print and online publications; otherwise, they wouldn’t be reading them in the first place. 
Thus, having an active PR program, including press releases, articles, product photos, new project announcements, bios, company or corporate news briefs, and other branded content being submitted to the media on a consistent basis, is essential. 
 Ads Vs. PR?
To achieve a successful advertising plan, a budget of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars is necessary, often reaching into the millions. Purchasing ad space in print publications or online comes with a hefty price tag; and, once the ad runs, your marketing outreach is finished. You then hope for the best. Will the few ads you were able to afford reach the right targets and give rise to new sales? Ultimately, all you can do at that point is wait out the budget year until new ad dollars are allocated to your marketing needs.
Conversely, the primary focus of public relations involves having your company news and thought-leadership information published in B-to-B and / or B-to-C print magazines and online a near-limitless number of times throughout the year, and for a much lesser budget. Since public relations leads to editors and other media members publishing content about companies and businesses, these stories remain relevant (and are read and re-read) far longer and more often than ads are seen and remembered.
After all, when is the last time you looked at a magazine or website and actually remembered specific products, professional services or brands you saw in the ads? However, you can probably recall articles you have read and photos you viewed which featured companies, product stories, project case-studies, development news, and industry professionals. Aren’t the articles and photos the reason you looked at the content anyway? Or, did you pick up the magazine or log onto the website just to look at the paid ads? Not likely.  
Putting true public relations to work for your company is highly attainable. It is really just a matter of a strategic program plan and series of publicity campaigns with the help of a professional public relations firm, one that specializes in your industry. Public relations can become an ongoing marketing reality for your business, resulting in a tool that builds media endorsed content about you, your staff and your product or service at double or triple the frequency an ad budget could afford.
Compare Dollar for Dollar

When asking which has more monetary value, advertising or public relations, there is a basic formula to put a dollar value on a specific placement. 

Advertising values are determined by the reach of a specific media outlet. The more people who read a publication, view a website, or watch a video or podcast, the higher the value of an ad buy. With this comes usually a very high expenditure since buying ad space is at a premium these days. On the other hand, the worth of public relations takes the value of advertising and builds upon it based on heightened impact and expanded interest on the parts of the readers or viewers.

Since public relations provides editorial and photo coverage of your products, service case-studies or news (published by editors and reporters), the result is third-party validation that your business does or offers what you say it does. The impression or result is considered three to five times higher than that of a paid advertisement.
Example: If a half-page ad (that runs one time) in a trade magazine costs $8,500, a half-page article or editorial in the same publication could be valued at up to $33,500. However, the cost for public relations, per article or placement, tends to be far less than purchasing the same amount of ad space. 
PR Influences Sales
In the end, if your article / editorial publishes on the same page as a competitor’s advertisement, which do you think the reader would find more interesting and remember longer? Chances are they would not be able to recall the name of the business or information as seen in the ads. Even if some of do, only a certain level of brand awareness is formed. With articles and other public relations-based media coverage, brand equity is generated, again, because people have trust in the publication or website that reported the information or story.
According to the Public Relations Society of America, 8 out of 10 people remember (and want to learn more about) the companies, brand names, products, and services about which they read in articles or hear or view on air and online.
When a representative or spokesperson from your business is interviewed for on-air radio or television segments about an area of expertise, audiences become familiar with your company and its specializations. Podcost interviews also publicize your concentrations, practices and capabilities, as expressed by you or your appointed interviewee, while being endorsed by the interviewer. Certainly, preplanning and preparation are essential components to these and all interview types. 
Which has more long-term value, advertising or public relations? 

To answer this question, reflect upon your current sales and marketing situation: If your current ad buys are advancing your sales so much that your sales goals are not a concern or thought, keep buying only ads. But, if achieving the upcoming year’s sales goals and maximizing relationships that can lead to new customers or clients is on your mind this time of year, make a necessary change to the ways in which you market your products or services and begin to reach more targets.
Contact us for a free assessment of your public relations needs. We’ll show you how to utilize public relations to connect with more qualified contacts and build brand equity that generates leads. Learn more: www.ecpr.com
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Don Eberly


  1. Anonymous says

    Great article, ECPR team. I see the longer-term value of PR holding much more worth, and the budget often being less than advertising is a nice bonus. I agree with you that a combo of both makes sense sometimes.

    John Wollenhall

  2. ECPR Team says

    Thanks for commenting on the topic, John. Our firm finds the decision to publicize and / or advertise is top of mind in today's proliferated marketing landscape. It is such an important marketing matter, we roll out assessments of current and potential PR vs. Ad campaigns for our applicable clients, to create a streamlined approach to campaign development decisions for them.

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