The reason PR and publicity should play an equal role in your small business marketing strategy is because – put simply – publicity offers companies a legitimacy that advertising cannot achieve. The difference between advertising and publicity is the middle man.
Your company’s value, as told by you or your paid advertisement, is all well and good, but is inherently less legitimate in a consumer’s mind. However, your company’s value as told by a reporter/blog/newspaper is a different ball game. In fact, consumers respond very differently to news-like presentations than they do advertisements, because they provide different cues about the intention of the message and thus invoke different types of information processing. Additionally, several studies have shown that conveying multiple messages from different sources, both press and advertising, strengthen marketing programs and have a deeper impact on consumer attitudes.
Unfortunately the companies that need PR the most, are the least likely to get it. In part because they don’t yet have any publicity (those who already have publicity are more likely to get it), and in part because small businesses don’t or aren’t able to put the time and resources into getting it. Yes, it takes time to get and build publicity – but the value it offers can be greater than your best performing ad. As the saying goes, “Advertising you pay for, PR you pray for.”