Frankly, it depends. If you own a rural hardware store that has no competition, then relying on newspaper ads or putting a few spots on the local radio station will probably serve you well. However, if you own a larger company or are seeking to move forward, then Do-it-Yourself PR may not only limit your growth, it may hinder it.
Public Relations can be a tricky business. This is especially true for companies who are fairly new or for those who may seek to change an established image. Many media outlets offer PR services, such as newspapers and radio. Each of those mediums has its place, of course, but may not be the best use of your advertising dollar. Radio people know radio but not much else when it comes to broadening PR horizons. Newspapers have the same issue in that they know print media, from ads to flyers, but are generally not equipped to give sound advice or suggestions on how to grow your business.
Advertising agencies and public relations firms are two ways to develop a brand for your company and ensure that you get the best bang for your buck. Advertising agencies are trained to develop a plan of action that will showcase your company in the best light possible. This may include developing a logo, a recognizable brand, slogan, or public image that best supports your services. Public relations firms tend to do more or less the same thing but generally have more expertise in developing PR functions and ways of creating presence of mind outside of the advertising realm.
One mistake that many people make when diving into public relations is to jump in without a game plan. It is crucial to have a uniform strategy throughout all forms of advertising and public relations. It makes the company more professional, recognizable, and the consistency of image creates a feeling of trust for the consumer. A business that inconsistently uses a hodge podge of media does not put its best foot forward. One must wonder about a company who can’t effectively manage its image. If the company isn’t able to present itself and its services well, does it have the ability to handle your business?
Finally, an excellent reason to seek outside advice for public relations needs comes down to time and money. Business owners usually have too much on their plates and find little to no time to devote to self promotion. Likewise, the lack of time may cause the business owner to throw money in one direction, sorely limiting the effectiveness of advertising.