Public relations builds powerful brands over time |

Public relations builds powerful brands over time

Marlene Olsen

According to a great book, “The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR” by Al and Laura Ries, to build a brand today you need to use public relations.

As the authors say, “Publicity is the nail, advertising is the hammer.” What does this mean? It means that your PR efforts help make your message believable through a third-party, i.e.

a reporter writing about your company.

With advance press coverage, your advertising will have credibility with your target when it hits.

Not that long ago, advertising did build brands.

But, that was in a simpler world with limited television and radio station choices.

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By definition, public relations is building relationships with your customers, usually through direct contact or media coverage.

Building a brand, to put it into even simpler terms, is becoming memorable real to your defined market.

Typically, companies with a new product or service want to hit the market hard and make a lot of noise.

Advertising allows you to launch quickly, control the message, and have your message in as many media outlets as you have the money for.

However, that does not mean your message will be believed.

The bolder advertisers get, the less likely I am to believe them.

How about you? PR takes time and does not necessarily work on your schedule.

Planting new ideas and changing minds is a slow process.When your PR program rolls out over a longer period of time, prospects have time to adjust their attitudes.

Brands that take this approach are longer lasting, too.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts was built totally by publicity and community outreach.

Being active with local nonprofit community organizations has worked for years.

No advertising at all.

Starbucks, until recently, did virtually no advertising.

It has built a brand through good PR efforts.

Starbucks’ annual sales are around $1.3 billion, while advertising expenditures over 10 years have totaled less than $10 million.

Take some of the book’s examples.

Chevrolet, for years the No.

1 auto brand, spends approximately $900 million annually on advertising 39 percent more than Ford spends.

Still, Ford outsells Chevrolet by 33 percent.

Since 1997, Chevrolet has outspent and undersold Ford.

To break it down even further, Chevrolet spends $314 per vehicle, and Ford spends $170 per vehicle.

Is this vast advertising working for Chevrolet?

Wal-Mart spent $498 million in 2001 and garnered four times that amount in revenue: $159 billion split between its Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores.

The average Wal-Mart store does $46 million in sales each year, and each Sam’s Club store sells an average of $56 million.

Sam’s Club does almost no advertising, but again implements a strategic community outreach program to reach its market.

But you’re probably thinking that those are very old brands.What about some newer brands? OK, let’s look at

Remember the dog sock puppet that starred in their commercials? It won awards, but not sales.

In six months had $22 million in revenues and spent four times that much on advertising.

The quirky advertising did not produce sales and the company went under.

Finally, what advertising agency do you know that has built its brand just on ads? You’ll see many staff and new business announcements in this newspaper from many ad agencies.

Does that make you think?

Marlene Olsen is president of Olsen & Associates Public Relations, Inc., a firm dedicated to building and optimizing public perceptions for its clients.

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