Public Relations & Advertising: A Perfect Marriage

Businesses that depend upon advertising should do everything possible to make sure they are spending their dollars wisely. But as we all know, this is easier said than done. How can we attract attention, develop a powerful message, and effectively persuade our audience? How can we lead them to believe that using our services or products is the logical decision? How can we make our message stand out in a world of constant commercial bombardment?

Enter Public Relations, an important yet often ignored tool of marketing. When it’s used in conjunction with paid advertising it can mean big bucks for companies of all sizes.

While effective public relations efforts have proven their effectiveness since the on-set of business, early efforts were not integrated into advertising efforts. In fact, it wasn’t until a campaign launched by American Express in the 1980’s when the corporate world started to take notice of the power of public relations. The credit card giant modified all of their advertising, communicating that each time a cardholder used their American Express card, they would donate a penny to the restoration of the Statue of Liberty.

The campaign results were much better than even American Express could imagine. Consumers couldn’t help but to feel good about a business that supports our country. And, since each purchase supported Lady Liberty, additional spending was certainly justified! As a direct result, card usage and membership had increased substantially. The cost of a facelift for America’s favorite lady: Priceless!

American Express was not the only one pleased with this creative use of advertising and public relations. Their successful campaign kick-started marketing experts all across the world who learned quickly that communicating involvement in a cause, the community, and/or the country will motivate action and generate profit. Businesses began using terms like “cause-related marketing,” becoming involved in community efforts and telling the world through advertising efforts.

Today, study after study continues to find that companies who utilize this combination marketing approach are extremely effective. I often quote findings offered by Cone Corporate Citizenship, indicating that 84% of Americans would be likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause if both price and quality are similar. If that’s not enough to get your marketing wheels spinning, read on…

In one of the most recent comprehensive marketing studies completed (Brand Benefits, 2003), it was found that we have a much more charitable public than even the experts anticipated! Studies concluded that over two-thirds of consumers (68%) actually want companies to become more involved in the community through supporting charities, organizations, and/or causes. And, most importantly, they confirmed that those companies who do this would see a significant increase in revenue. Customer perception, loyalty, and buying behavior are all positively impacted when companies tell their publics about their community and cause involvement.

It’s important to note, that when companies recognize the importance of PR & Advertising, everyone benefits. Take Whirlpool Appliances for example. Instead of promoting great sales or lifetime guarantees in their television commercials, the mega-manufacturer features their non-profit partner, Habitat for Humanity. The well-known charity brings local volunteers together with families in need, building them a new, affordable house.
According to Whirlpool, “every family needs a place to put down their roots and nurture a hopeful future.” Their commercials feature families and focus on the commitment that Whirlpool has to help these families achieve the American Dream. The company proudly donates a refrigerator and range to every Habitat Home. With marketing like this is it any surprise that Whirlpool is the #1 Home Appliance Maker in the United States? Everyone wins.

If you’re thinking that you couldn’t possibly donate on this level and that every penny in your business counts, you’re not alone. You can effectively blend public relations into your advertising and make a positive impression with your publics without breaking the bank.

One very effective way to increase your revenue is to show your support by generating awareness for a particular cause or event. For instance, use a portion of your advertising space to let the world know about the surprising number of children that suffer from developmental issues such as Autism. List the local provider that offers assistance and needs community support. By taking this action, you let your publics know that you are a company that cares. You help the local nonprofit provider, the children, and your bottom-line.

Many companies are already being wonderful corporate citizens, yet failing to toot their own horn in their advertising efforts. If your company or your employees are involved with local charities, let the world know through your advertising efforts. Don’t let your gifts of time go unrecognized. Showcase the organizations name and logo (assuming you have permission) and proudly state that you are a supporter of that organization.

As with any good marriage, commitment is the key to success. Over promotion of a one-time only philanthropic activity will not get you the results you need. When companies find a charity, cause, or nonprofit to work with…they must become committed to an effective long-term campaign that will benefit all involved. And, of course, make sure the organization you choose to partner with is one that makes sense given your business type as well as your personal views and values.

Many CEO’s fear taking their marketing down this successful path. While the research is clear and the arguments compelling, it is change that causes paralysis. If you are experiencing cold feet, remember the wonderful benefits that engaging in public relations activities offers for everyone involved. Secure your future, take the plunge, and tell the world!