Home / Publicity Marketing Vs. Paid Advertising

Publicity Marketing Vs. Paid Advertising

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It is my belief that publicity marketing should be the cornerstone of your business. Why do I say this? As a small business owner, I know how tight our budgets can be, especially when first starting a business.

The experiences I have had with paid advertising aren’t great. The results can be pretty bleak. I have bought advertising in well-circulated media that has only netted me a couple of clients. Yet before I pay for the ad, other people tell me to be prepared for a rush of business after the ad is published. I have seen other businesses experience the same poor results. One hair salon owner I worked with had a local radio station in her parking lot giving out prizes. Meanwhile, the location and information about her business were being broadcast throughout the day. A few clients came into the shop at best after that event. The hair salon shut down shortly after this.

The problem is, some entrepreneurs buy advertising out of desperation and promises of a flood of customers coming through the door. I have never met a small business owner who has had this experience after paid advertising.

Why the poor results? I believe it is because, these days, people are so inundated with advertising that one paid ad campaign makes a small dent on their consciousness. Also I believe people are becoming cynical. There are so many false promises in the advertising world.

So why choose publicity marketing? First of all, having your name in print or mentioned in an interview is huge. The credibility you gain in the eyes of the consumer is at least ten-fold over what you would gain from a paid ad.

Publicity marketing takes more effort. You have to write press releases and solicit interviews, among other things. However the pay-off in the long run can be great in terms of client base and building celebrity status in your community. Besides, I find this type of marketing is fun and can really stimulate your imagination. The results you gain are only limited by your creativity, effort, and enthusiasm.

Marketing in this way may not get you the instant results so often promised by paid advertising, but it is my hope that you know that getting rich quick does not usually happen. You are looking at at least a good two years to establish your business and that is with persistent marketing.

So should you ditch paid advertising altogether? I don’t think so. However if one paid ad is going to be a hardship on your pocket book, I would stick with publicity until you improve your financial situation.

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About Larry

  • Nice piece, Larry! This trends with my suspicions, also reinforces how ineffective advertising in “old media” really is. Of course, if you have a brick-and-media business, working through old media makes sense whereas the online world works much more efficiently, in my view, in bringing eyeballs and clicks and sales to online enterprises.

  • Nancy

    Today the ordinary person is so inundated with incessant ads – Ads – ADS, whether in print or on TV or radio, that most of us automatically shut down & shut out, or get hostile. I personally have indeed taken notice of at least 4 car dealerships in my area that I will NEVER buy so much as a stick of chewing gum from, because their ads are so over-the-top, lame, and annoying, not to mention downright offensive. I don’t think that’s the kind of advertising notice they exactly wanted from a consumer.

    As a consumer, I can tell you any product which is shoved up my nose by the advertiser is automatically OUT. I will NEVER buy that product, even if it’s detrimental to my own interests. I don’t like being forced, I don’t like having my nose rubbed in a product, and while we’re at it, I don’t like the fearmongering approach either. You know what I mean: the intimations that if you don’t buy this stuff, your life is going to be less than perfect, you won’t measure up to the neighbors, your life may even *gasp* be … in danger! Yuh, right. Trowelling it on a bit too thick, there, buddy. I will survive very well without the overpriced luxury SUV gas guzzler, or the oversized McMansion in the latest fashionable development. I don’t need designer ipods, and I really could care less about vacationing somewhere ‘elite’. Oh, and while we’re at it, for the record, advertising people, you can’t sell a “home”. You can sell a house, but not a home. Get with it; there’s a difference only a marketer fails to get. And “pre-owned” cars; do you all really think everyone is so goddamned stupid they can’t equate that to USED? Again, a distinction only a marketer fails to comprehend.

    So then what DO I like? I like ads that are amusing. I like ads that invite me to check out their product, but don’t try to stuff it down my throat with false promises, threats, or hysterical yelling (car dealerships, take special notice). I like ads that don’t try to tell me that the “offer” is going fast, so I’d better HURRY, NOW, RUSH. Bullshit. D’you think I don’t keep subliminal tabs on you? D’you think I don’t realize that you just ended your last “YEAR’S BIGGEST SALE” last week, and when this one ends, you’ll trot out another one? D’you think I don’t remember that you actually held a “SUPER SPECIAL SALE EVENT” for Groundhog’s Day, f’chrissakes? I patronize businesses that when they have sales, have actual sales. Not that they’ve just adjusted the prices for the previous weekend to meet the legal requirements before claiming to be holding a sale. Again. I like ads that give me the courtesy of figuring I have at least 2 brain cells to rub together – even if I don’t. And I like ads that are honest. Don’t claim this is the year’s biggest sale if it isn’t. Don’t claim it’s ending SOON if it’s still got 3 weeks to go. The hype & blather are not going to get me into your store. They’re just going to inspire me to turn off the TV or radio.

    Yeah, it’s a hard sell: be truthful; be clever; and be respectful. But it will work far better than all the BS usually shovelled out, & will make you a name I remember – and buy from.

  • Important article. Good job.

    A CEO once said, “I know that half my advertising is effective–I just don’t know which half.”

    Part of the problem is that the research models that are used to develop advertising are outdated and wrong. Read Gerald Zaltman’s (Harvard School of Business and head of marketing firm) How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market. I’m not sure I agree with his new research methodologies, but the first half of the book–about how people take in and process information, mostly at the unconscious level–and about how research bias is almost inevitable–is priceless.

    You’re right that “publicity marketing” aka PR takes more time, but, in the long run, it’s a more powerful brand builder. That is, if you’ve got a simple, powerful message that differentiates you, if you understand your customer’s needs and exceed them, and if you deliver on the promises you make in your publicity.

    Message develop and media training are essential tools of publicity marketing–this from someone with over 25 years in the business. If I have a TV interview scheduled, I still go through message training after giving literally hundreds of interviews.

  • Nancy

    It’s gotta be hard, I admit that. How to take a product & make it special – if it is, that is. A big problem is, too many marketers have to take a product that isn’t special – that in fact may suck big time – and hype it to the public, which only erodes marketing credibility further. Prime example are the mattress discounting companies. Every single week they’re blaring some new BIGGEST SALE OF THE YEAR – HURRY, RUSH, FAST! What crap. Everyone knows as soon as they end one sale they start another. Also that whatever models they’re pushing as being ‘on sale’ won’t be available on the floor – they’re the biggest practitioners of bait & switch unhung, but the state never bothers to prosecute for various reasons I won’t go into. Hence, whenever a mattess ad comes on, it’s auto-switch-off. No one believes them, and no one responds to their ads because everyone knows they’re a pack of lies. People go when they need mattresses. Period. The only reason these companies advertise, I suspect, is to try to differentiate among themselves with the public. Not one of them realizes they could make a major killing if they’d stop with the incessant sales & bait & switch tactics, & start holding bona fide sales & having actual sales items available. As it is, it doesn’t matter if I buy from Mattress Discounters, Mattress Wholesalers, or Mattress Whomever, because they’re all slick all the time.

    I have a question I would like anyone with a toe in marketing to answer, if they can: what’s with car dealers & the ads where the guy is talking in a sort of semi-hysterical gabble, or a ridiculously ‘pompous’, over-dramatic voice? I can’t describe it otherwise, but I hope you know what I mean: they talk in caps. EVERYTHING ON SALE, ALL THE TIME, BUY NOW! etc. etc. Is this an imitation of announcers at a speedway or is it supposed to be a parody of something? Where did they get this ‘voice’ thing? It’s a peculiar way of talking that you almost never hear outside of car ads. Thanks.

  • Great discussion and thanks alot for the positive feedback.

    I just want to address some of the points that were brought up and my thoughts on them.

    Eric I agree that the internet seems to work best for internet based businesses. However used in combination with other marketing techniques it can be a great way to market your business and inforn your current clients.

    I have a website that I set up to promote workshops that I teach to other massage therapists. Even though I am not actively promoting workshops at the moment I still get requests through the website. I think this has been a valuable asset to my business.

    Mark. Thanks for the book title. I will try to find that book. What is message training?

    Nancy. My thoughts on the whole car dealership yelling gimick.

    I have been in Toastmasters for 8 years now. I know as a presenter one of my roles is to elevate the energy of the audience to motivate them to a common purpose. One of the ways of doing this is through my enthusiasm. Perhaps the car saleperson are trying to use the same technique. In their case they show enthusiasm by yelling. I believe I have even sen commercials where the announcer is yelling into a megaphone.

    Driving a car can be exciting. The salesperson is trying to get you excited about driving their cars. The problem is they come across as pompous and annoying.

    Perhaps there is also some kind of a subliminal link to roadrage here. Who knows?

    I have also noticed sometimes furniture stores use the yelling technique. I think in this case they want to get you excited about something that is actually pretty boring. Again totally lame and annoying.

  • Nancy

    Thanks for the comment. A friend who lives in Bristol, TN (where there’s a large racing stadium) is the one who pointed out the similarity between the artificially hyperdramatic weird announcer’s voice & the ads. As I said, after that I mostly noticed it in radio car ads, and wondered if it was supposed to be an imitation of being at car races, or what. In any event, they should can it. The type of witty, funny, and varied ads of the Volvo dealership, on the other hand, would be well worth imitating by all car dealers. Not only funny, but literate as well (a car dealer’s ad you can learn things from?! Astounding!). I not only remember the vehicle brand, but the dealership, & talk about them even if I’m not in the market for a Volvo. Now THAT’S good advertising.

    The absolutely BEST advertising I ever came up against: the Brilcreme jingle signs. All these years later, a lot of people still love & quote them!

  • gonzo marx

    i’m with the late , great, Bill HIcks on this one…

    “oh..your in marketing? do the whole world a favor…

    kill yourself..

    seriously, you ARE what is wrong with our society, help our country out…

    kill yourself

    I know what some of you bastards are thinking ‘oh, he’s going for the Angry Dollar here, good dollar’

    no…no I’m fucking not, I’m serious about removing the parasitic bastards that you are from our society…your kind are worse than lawyers…

    kill yourselves”
    Bill Hicks

    nuff said?



  • Nancy

    I don’t know that I’d class marketers as being as bad as lawyers; they certainly aren’t as low as congresspersons or politicians & their hangers-on (like Karl Rove), most of whom are lawyers, who I consider to be the lowest of the low. But definitely of the class “of Society offenders who might well be underground – and who’d none of them be missed, they’d none of them be missed.” (Gilbert & Sullivan, Mikado), since their whole mission in life entirely is to separate people from their money, legitimately or un-. This is professional marketers, that is. I think what the author is talking about, tho, is people who have a small business & need to make the public in general aware they exist in a positive way. We’re not talking professional ad execs here.

  • I am not a marketer. I am just a small business owner who has some experience and knowledge in marketing. I have no formal training as a marketer. I only share my firsthand experience to help other small business owners. I have no intention of ever becoming a professional marketer. I personally have nothing against marketers as long as they practice in an ethical manner. They just people making a living like you are I.

  • gonzo marx

    Larry sez…
    *They just people making a living like you are I.*

    well now Larry…a Wise man once said there are three kinds of people..Makers, Takers and Fakers…

    only the first Category are worthy of consideration…

    for the other two types…see comment #7

    nuff said?


  • Fozzie Bear

    Dear Gonzo,

    The name you use concerns me. You may have been subconsciously branded by the Muppets advertising (or marketers rather) from a very young age.

    From my understanding, you may want to commend those marketers for creating an identity for you to voice your thoughts.

    Regards, FB

  • heh…i’m quite a bit older than the oldest muppet

    try again, ya silly bear


  • I take it Nancy doesn’t eat at McDonalds or buy any nationally marketed gasoline. How does one automatically eliminate any product which has been advertised?