Public Relations vs. Advertising.

Where to spend your money? That’s always a tough question, but even more so in a down economy when budgets are tight and every dollar counts. So let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of PR and Advertising to help you make the best budget allocations for your organization:

Public Relations


  • Low cost
  • Third-party endorsement carries high value in today’s cynical marketplace
  • Many smaller trade publications and local newspapers need to fill space inexpensively with news releases and vendor bylined articles
  • Ditto for conferences looking for session leaders, panel members and secondary speakers
  • Opportunities to become an industry thought leader


  • Requires good media relationships to function at the highest level
  • Little or no control over the final message
  • Limited shelf life—usually a one-time appearance
  • Unpredictable exposure—no control over frequency or amount of coverage
  • Limited metrics



  • Control over message and creative
  • Ability to determine timing and frequency
  • Generally has longer shelf life
  • Better metrics to measure marketing ROI


  • Expensive—consumes your budget faster
  • Exposure proportional to your expenditure
  • Consumers know they’re reading a paid sales message
  • Lacks authenticity that comes from third-party endorsement

And the Winner Is…

It really depends on the size of your budget. In an ideal marketing world (let us know if you find one), you would have an appropriate blend of public relations and advertising to maximize your overall strategy.

Your decisions would be based more on the type of business you have and your marketing objectives. For example:

  • An accounting and management-consulting firm might weight its budget more toward public relations because of the value that indirect, third-party endorsements bring to a professional services organization.
  • A large national retail chain might have a heavier advertising budget to generate store traffic while allocating smaller PR budgets to individual stores for community relations building.

But your situation is different if you are a smaller organization that doesn’t have the budget luxury of creating an optimum plan. For you, PR is likely the better approach for direct and personal communications with your target prospects.

What is clear is that you need to actively promote your company on a consistent basis. Down economies make the task more challenging, but companies that market in good times and bad enjoy more success over the long haul. You remain visible to your audience and send a message of reliability, to say nothing of promoting your brand when others aren’t.

— by Larry Bauer

How to Create a Winning Press Kit?

Successful press kits not only deliver timely information to editors but they also make you look and sound credible. Editors can’t risk their reputation on questionable information or sources, so make sure your message is clear and your brand represented.

To create a great press kit you must:

  1. Have something newsworthy
  2. Understand your target editors/writers
  3. Write and design your kit to those editors/writers while supporting your brand

This article focuses on writing and designing a winning kit.

Good Creative Supports Your Goal.

Great press kits go beyond photocopied releases in plain manilla envelopes. They can include digital media and be delivered electronically. They can also include samples or giveaways. Many are downright wacky and fun. But it is a fine line between enough and overkill. Highly innovative and gimmicky press kits may be the in-thing for movie launches and fashion shows, but they could fall flat without the substance to back them up or when editors are focused on widgets or financial services. Be sure your kit is designed appropriately for your niche. If your story requires bells and whistles, by all means, make some noise. Just make sure your kit doesn’t upstage your news. Pay special attention to:

  • Grammar and spelling. Poor grammar and spelling make you look careless and untrustworthy, not to mention a little dim. And for heaven’s sake, don’t rely on spell check. Remember, editors and writers care about dotting i’s and crossing t’s.
  • Kit design. Don’t undermine your brand by tossing simple press releases in a blank folder and calling it a kit. A strong brand that’s consistent within the press kit wins points with editors looking for the next great thing from a credible source.
  • File formats. Make sure your photos are high resolution. It also doesn’t hurt to include both RGB and CMYK since most publications have online components.

Creating a great kit improves your chances of becoming tomorrow’s news.

Getting Front Page Placement.

Here’s an example of a press kit that won prime placement on opening day of the annual International Housewares trade show in Chicago—exactly the right day of the year! Although this is example from a very specific niche, the same principles apply no matter what business you’re in.

Out of the thousands of new products introduced at the show, this client’s innovative and elegantly simple table cloths were included in the Chicago Tribune’s list of top 14 innovative products—with photo and above the fold—on the front page of the Home & Garden section of the Sunday edition.

How Was This Accomplished?

Nailing prime placement in key publications is never a sure thing, but it’s more likely with a combination of a great product or service, a great story and a well-done press kit.

What to Include.

Start by using product storytelling, well-written press releases and, if applicable, demonstration videos. You can also use an unusual container format to make the kit feel special. In this example, we used sleek black portfolio boxes to grab attention. It’s okay to stand out from the plain envelopes and folders gathering dust in the editor’s in-box.

Included within the kit were:

  • A press release
  • Company backgrounder
  • Product glossy (written and designed specifically for editors and writers)
  • A CD-ROM containing high-resolution photos, digital copies of the releases and a video demonstration showing how the fabric table cloths protected against spills

You can also consider including product or service fact sheets, a short list of frequently asked questions, brief and succinct testimonials and samples in your press kit. If you’re going to include any kind of glossy product info in the kit, make sure it’s targeted to the media. Do not include catalogs and sell sheets as they contain too much hyperbole and may turn off editors. Remember, keep the kit brief and valuable.

Distribution and Follow Up.

Don’t rely on a single method of distribution. This particular press kit was distributed to media giants at the Houseware’s Show Media Event in New York three months prior to the show as well as mailed to editors who did not attend. Standards today also include posting your kit’s components in the media section of your website or blog. Follow up all distributions with a phone call. No hard sell—be helpful and find out if they need or want more information.

Make sure your staff is ready for follow up and does so quickly. The Tribune requested product samples as a result of this press kit, and they were sent overnight. If your product is making specific and demonstrable claims, be prepared to have editors test the product and grill you for more information.

And smile when you’re talking with an editor or writer on the phone, they can hear that.

— by Julia Moran Martz

Mastering PR Basics.

Building a basic public relations program requires as much perspiration as inspiration. You must have a commitment to doing PR activities consistently and in a professional manner that will create demand for your news and subject matter expertise. The better you understand the rules, the better you’ll be able to play the game.

Here’s what you need to gain more exposure:

  • Learn how to develop a media list. There’s nothing more important than this database, so you have to spend some time getting the appropriate contacts and keeping the list updated. Determine the right local, regional, national and international media (newspapers, magazines, newsletters, blogs, radio and TV stations) contacts for your organization. Most of the information you need is readily accessible.
  • Learn how to develop relationships. Commit time to getting to know your media contacts. If possible, arrange a media tour, which is a series of individual meetings or a single event to promote your organization, product, or service to members of the media. For example, you might arrange meetings with the local newspaper business editors, or travel to see key members of the trade publications that cover your segment. Another approach is to invite members of the trade media attending a trade conference to a briefing. This works especially well if you have a newsworthy product or service to introduce.
  • Learn how to create a press kit. Regardless of your approach, make sure you prepare and have something to say. One of your goals is to establish your organization as a thought leader worthy of being quoted in an article—or perhaps even authoring the article—so be sure to look the part. That means having a press kit (See “How to Create a Winning Press Kit” in this issue), presentation materials and either an internal or external representative trained in interfacing with the press.
  • Learn how to write a news release. The better you do this, the more likely you are to receive free publicity. Not only do professionally written and presented news releases make you appear more credible, but increasingly understaffed media outlets also value copy that provides a solid foundation for an article without heavy rewrites. When you’re composing a news release, focus on the “news” element while emphasizing the basics of who, what, when, where and why. News releases with a good, crisp, relevant photo also tend to get more play. Digital cameras and the fact that most news releases are now submitted via email make the entire process easier and less expensive than ever.
  • Learn what’s newsworthy. There is likely more news in your organization than you think. A good practice is to form an internal “news team” that identifies newsworthy developments. You should set a goal of issuing at least one news release per month. Here are some items you should consider newsworthy:
    • New staff additions or promotions at the manager level and above
    • Capital investments in facilities, equipment and systems
    • Major new contracts or customer acquisitions
    • Company milestones—significant company and product anniversaries (AARP Turns 50, etc.)
    • New products, technologies or services
    • Significant customer benefits delivered in cost savings, time-to-market or quality improvement
    • Awards and honors—remember you usually have to enter to win
    • New corporate initiatives—sustainability, internships, etc.
    • Community relations—sponsorships, major contributions, scholarships, employee service programs, etc.

And remember this important takeaway: PR is for your customers too. Be sure to mail or email your news releases to your clients as well as the press. There’s no better way to continually let your customers know that you have an exciting, growing business and remind them of why they chose you in the first place.

What if You Don’t Have the Internal Resources?

MondoVox helps companies of all sizes with their PR programs. We can perform key services from developing a media contact database to writing your news releases and creating an effective press kit. Most importantly, we can help you develop a winning PR strategy that fits your budget and business requirements. For more information, email Julia Moran Martz.

— by Larry Bauer