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What Comes First: Ads or PR?

Advertising is a hammer, and public relations is the nail, according to marketing guru Al Ries, author of The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. What does that mean?

Advertising is a hammer, and public relations is the nail, according to marketing guru Al Ries, author of The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. What does that mean?

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More than 50 advertising insiders and public relations executives found it important enough to scribble down these words during Ries’ speech at Business Wire’s Integrated Marketing Conference held at Reuters headquarters in New York’s Times Square.

The translation: PR gives a product or brand credibility or engrains the brand’s worth into the brains of consumers, while advertising further reinforces that credibility, Ries said. A company should put in the nail (PR), then take the hammer (advertising) to drive in the message.

Before listening to Ries, I never really gave any thought to the notion of which should come first: advertising or PR? Richard Badler, head of corporate communications at Unisys, backed Ries’s notion during the conference. Badler shared with the audience a mission statement he wrote for his worldwide team that says, “Create and implement cutting-edge communications that drives the business forward.”

It does make sense for a company launching a new brand to get the buzz out on the product through press releases, media events or rely on good old word of mouth instead of spending millions on an advertising campaign that may not give you the returns you expected.

One good example, Ries said, is Anheuser-Busch, whose marketing wins the top advertising awards yearly. Remember the Whazzup?! Campaign that had everyone, even non-beer drinkers saying the phrase? However, these creative ads have hardly helped bolster sales at the King of Beers. Another example is the cute chihuahua from the Taco Bell ads that would say “Te quiero Taco Bell?” The dog was great, but the sales at the restaurant remained lackluster, according to Ries.

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Some companies focus more on advertising than on giving consumers a clue about the product. An even bigger problem is with so many ads on the air already, its hard for one to really make an impression. For me, I can maybe recall two or three recent ads, but that doesnt mean I have any plans to buy any of the products. The answer to the dilemma though as it was explained at the conference is for companies to do a better job at using public relations to help build the brands and using advertising to reinforce the message thats been publicized already.

How is PR treated at your company? Do you agree with PR being first before the advertising? Whats the solution?

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