Talk to any PR professional and they’ll admit that the
advent of digital marketing and social media has changed their industry.
Some will say they’ve adapted. And I truly believe that some have. But not
Some still don’t fully understand this new form of marketing, in particular
Facebook as a social media and advertising platform, from the client’s
perspective. Without understanding that, they’ll never understand what
they’re up against, so let me share my perspective as a fairly steady PR
client since 2004. I’ve co-founded two consumer products companies. During
the past year we’ve been using PR for my current company, Thread
Experiment, which sells home bedding designed for men. I’ve noticed a
significant change in the impact of PR since 12 years ago when I founded my
In its most basic function, PR gets brands placed in various media sources.
Whether it be magazine, TV or blog, a mention of your brand, a product
photo, or a full write-up on your business often creates fantastic exposure
to readers/viewers of that medium. Implied in that placement is a form of
unbiased endorsement of the brand. As a result, readers or viewers are
likelier to shop and/or purchase the brand’s products. That’s the goal of
Even when PR placement doesn’t directly result in a sale, it still has an
ancillary benefit—branding. One exposure may not make a sale but repeated
exposures, at a minimum sharpen brand recognition that may ultimately cause
a consumer to order products. Hiring a PR firm (or someone in-house) is not
inexpensive. Costs ranging between $35,000-$120,000 per year are typical,
depending on the firm, the brand and the work involved. What a PR firm
provided for you was irreplaceable with results incomparable to basic
advertising. For obvious reasons, it is always more influential for a
third-party to endorse your brand (PR) rather than for you to boast about
how great your brand is (advertising).
In my opinion, however, Facebook has reduced the positive impact of PR and
is challenging whether PR is "irreplaceable" or "incomparable" anymore.
This has occurred in two completely different ways.
6 Common Mistakes of DIY Public Relations
1. Lack of loyalty to news sources diminishes their influence.
The internet boasts a seemingly limitless number of media outlets and blogs
covering topics ranging from politics to fashion. These media publish
articles and distribute them through their own Facebook accounts. Facebook
users then read and share these articles on Facebook all day and all night.
It never seems to stop.
The result? More people are reading articles from more news sources than
ever before. In the good ol’ days, people typically had one or two
newspapers delivered to them each morning and received three to five
magazines each week. Throw in a couple of regular TV news programs and that
made up the full extent of media sources a person would consume.
Nowadays, with Facebook, readers are exposed to more news stories from more
news outlets than ever before. The news they consume does not just come
from the media they follow but also from the 300 to 3,000 friends on
Facebook who spend all day sharing stories from their own personal news
feeds. (On a side note, what’s up with these people who have 3,000 Facebook
With so much news to consume from so many different media outlets, readers
are no longer getting their information from a few news sources. This means
that their loyalty has diminished which, in effect, means that those media
outlets’ influence has diminished as well. For example, for someone who
follows women’s fashion, Vogue and Glamour have long been the top sources
for advice and endorsements on brands and products. Now non-fashion news
sources such as Time or Business Insider delve into topics like women’s
fashion. And, of course, you can find thousands of blogs on women’s fashion
that offer some solid advice/endorsements as well.
With Facebook’s platform, this type of news can now reach the same level of
distribution as a glossy Vogue or Glamour magazine. That was never possible
before Facebook. As a result, traditional forms of media are arguably
becoming less influential. Indeed, the diversity of media out there has
effectively caused all of the media to be less influential than it
used to be.
This affects the power of PR. With the dilution of influence out there in
the media, a placement in any one of the media has a lot less impact on its
readers than it used to. Which means that if your company’s marketing plan
was to get multiple PR placements in the media, the impact of those
placements just is not what it used to be.
5 Pro Tips for a Successful Do-It-Yourself Public RelationsCampaign
2. Facebook Advertising and the new branding.
One of the great things about PR is getting repeated placements to make
consumers familiar with a brand’s name, logos and/or products, creating
familiarity and trust in that brand. However, Facebook Advertising puts
multiple exposures of the brand in front of target consumers with a very
specific demographic, multiple times a day. The ads seem not to bother
Facebook users, as Facebook has now conditioned its users to viewing ads in
their feed that fit their personal interests. And it is precisely that
which makes Facebook Advertising a new competitor to PR. With Facebook
Advertising, companies can effectively brand themselves, likely with far
less effort and money than through PR.
By way of example, the most successful PR campaigns yield five to seven
placements in a month. As mentioned above, that cost could be between
$3,000 - $10,000 per month in PR fees. However, for the same amount of
money, a brand can launch numerous Facebook campaigns to reach the same (or
even greater) number of consumers. And not just any consumers - consumers
that the brand chooses to target. Yes, it’s true, a Facebook Advertising
campaign may have a lesser influential effect for the same “advertising vs
PR” reasoning I identified earlier. However, given the greater and more
targeted reach, Facebook Advertising is unquestionably the more cost
efficient route for branding your company.
3 Deadly Sins of Facebook Advertising
So, is PR dead?
First, I hope all my PR friends don’t hate me. I certainly don’t believe
that PR is a dead industry and there is still certainly a need for media
placements. I’m simply suggesting that those placements no longer have the
powerful effect they once had.
PR professionals can still survive (and thrive) by offering clients more
than just placement services. With many of them being brilliant creative
marketers, they have to also offer strategic marketing campaigns that help
their clients get noticed in all the noise that social media has created.
This can be through traditional or digital marketing. But to get there, PR
professionals need to first acknowledge that some of what they do is now
threatened by Facebook news and advertising. Only then will they succeed in
surviving and thriving in this new era of marketing and branding.
Greg Shugar is the co-founder of
Thread Experiment. A version of this article originally appeared
on Entrepreneur. Copyright © 2017 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.