Friday, November 26, 2010

Marketing 101: The Difference Between PR and Advertising

Sometimes people forget that marketing to Latinos can have all the same components (and successes and frustrations!) as marketing to a more general population. No matter your target, the marketing mix can and should include various tactics, including public relations and advertising. However, there are many significant differences between these tactics. For the non-marketer, I would like to review at a very high level public relations and advertising, and their advantages and disadvantages.  

Advertising and public relations. They both belong in a cohesive marketing plan. They both require significant strategy and coordination. They both require consumer insights and market expertise. They will produce different results that can help give your brand exposure and credibility.

One big myth about the difference between public relations and advertising is that PR is "free." Marketers are spending time working on a compelling angle, talking to media contacts, pitching stories, following up and scheduling interviews, etc. All this takes time--and time equals money. But the media is free, so many companies view it as if it were free advertising. But it's not. It's not free, and it's certainly not advertising.

That bring us to the next significant difference between PR and advertising: CONTROL. In advertising, you pay media for a particular space/time/position and the content you supply is what your audience sees. No surprises, assuming all goes according to plan.

In public relations, marketers aren't buying media, so the control isn't there. The brand's end result could be no exposure, limited exposure, New York Times front-cover exposure, or even negative exposure. Marketers, and the companies and organizations we represent, are at the mercy of the media on this one. We build connections and work on media relations so that when the time comes, we understand what our contacts need and they in turn are willing to showcase our client. The payoff, of course, is that editorial exposure is seen as more reliable, truthful, objective--more newsy--than advertising.

This brings me to my latest foray into PR. Earlier this week I was interviewed by the Puget Sound Business Journal for a story on Mariners' Pitcher Felix Hernandez and his recently announced American League Cy Young Award. How might this award impact Felix' marketability? I was asked. Here are some things I shared with the reporter:
  • Felix Hernandez can now be considered a local sports hero. As Fredy Montero is currently serving as Super Supplements' Latino spokesman in local Hispanic media, perhaps there is a simliar path Felix could take now that he's garnered more attention and value. (I did not specifically recommend Felix represent fast food or vitamins.)
  • Remember Edgar Martinez in those The Home Depot TV spots of years past? Edgar didn't have a big command of the English language but won over audiences, Latino and non-Latino. Felix also represents that-guy-next-door that audiences could trust as a spokesperson. Because he has such strong ties with Venezuela, he would be especially effective in Latino-specific marketing.
  • We didn't discuss how much Felix could earn from commercial ventures, although the range quoted and attributed to me don't seem out of bounds.
At this time I'd like to add that Felix Hernandez could be a great cross-over property for marketing to both the local Latino population as well as the general market here in the Puget Sound region.

Smart companies have long strategized their marketing to include more multicultural cues and references. This way, a more cost-effective campaign may be implemented that can still meet both audience's needs. For example, if your company is targeting Spanish-dominant Latinos as well as the general public, a TV spot can be developed to leverage similar imagery for both but with English and Spanish voiceovers or superimposed text to best communicate the salient points. This only really works if you have everyone in the room at the outset of the project and in agreement on the ad's objectives.

Sometimes companies are simply too big to get everyone together that way, and that's OK. Many times it's these same companies who have the resources to produce original Hispanic creative directed at their Latino target, which in a nutshell is the ideal way to handle Hispanic marketing.

The sad truth is that, oftentimes, Hispanic marketing efforts are left for last, really a whoops-we-forgot-about-a-big-percentage-of-our-target effort instead of embarking on a well-planned and measurable program.

The work we do at Conexión Marketing is either very local or national. National accounts have always been our mainstay, but we're here to say that with more than 400,000 Latinos permanently residing in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, it's time to take for local companies that next step! Whether through advertising, public relations, social media, direct marketing, another tactic or a full mix, companies need to take note now that this market is being sorely missed.

The good news? There's still time to be the top-of-mind brand in your category among the fastest-growing cultural demographic!

In just a few weeks, a topline of the Census data will be announced. Things might change when people realize what it means that the U.S. Latino population is the fastest-growing--even right here in Seattle, Washington.

Read the full Puget Sound Business Journal article here (full access may require subscription).

FOLLOW-UP: To the credit of the Puget Sound Business Journal, the online version of the article was revised to properly attribute comments. Kudos to Aislyn Greene and the PSBJ for the considerate follow-up!