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Publicity Is Not Free Advertising. Don't Destroy Your Efforts to Get Press By Slipping Into Sales Mode. Small businesses undermine their potential by failing to translate press into tangible success.

By Brian Hart Edited by Bill Schulz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Public relations is the most misunderstood function under the marketing-communications umbrella. Even with businesses that have a general understanding of PR, there are still some massive misconceptions.

The most troubling one is the idea that it's all just free advertising. What's worse is that industry professionals have done little to squash this myth. In fact, many agencies proliferate this false comparison by leaning on misleading metrics such as Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) to quantify their results.

It's time to debunk this toxic misnomer that is especially prevalent in the startup community.

What small businesses really want from PR

When a small business launches a campaign focused on earned media (getting positive press coverage), few are simply out there for publicity. They want to bolster their brands, give an adrenaline shot to their marketing goals and validate their services with third-party credibility.

When properly implemented, a strategic public relations campaign can be the catalyst for achieving any or all of the above.

Related: 3 Ways Direct-to-Consumer Brands Can Leverage Media Coverage

Developing credibility

When viewing public relations through the narrow lens of advertising, small businesses are unlikely to accomplish any of those meaningful goals. They don't even get advertising because public relations is not advertising. Advertising is advertising.

To elaborate, advertising is the use of paid promotions in the marketing process, typically in the form of commercials, digital ads, billboards and so forth. Public relations, on the other hand, is focused on developing trust and awareness, rather than directly soliciting products or services.

Credibility is the key. In the context of public relations, this is often established through press coverage, authorship, awards, speaking engagements and influencer endorsements. Because advertising is bought – not earned – it lacks the kind of validity good PR can deliver.

Related: Top Trends That Will Impact the Public Relations Industry in 2022

How PR promotes growth

Press coverage on its own is just publicity; that's not what small businesses want. What brings it all together is the process of earning and leveraging credibility. For brands, it is an integrated strategy that incorporates public relations success into multiple marketing verticals.

This would include maintaining a press page on a company website to showcase positive media coverage. Other popular forms include leveraging PR success through social media and email marketing.

When brands fail to integrate their PR success into their marketing objectives, the efforts often fail to achieve any meaningful business goals. However, once small businesses evolve beyond the free advertising mentality, that's when they can truly unleash the full power of public relations.

Related: Technology Is Changing PR and Marketing Forever

Brian Hart

Founder & President of Flackable

Brian Hart is an award-winning communications strategist and founder of Flackable, a national public relations agency headquartered in Philadelphia.

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