It’s not unusual for busy professionals to confuse the roles of marketing, public relations, and advertising. The digital age has blurred the lines further. What used to be distinct disciplines, operating in their own silos, are no longer clear cut.
It’s worth repeating a fun, well-worn analogy that reveals some of the traditional differences. Here goes:
You see a gorgeous woman at a party. She seems available. You approach her. In your most commanding voice you say to her, “I am very rich. Marry me!” That is direct marketing.
Next, you’re at a party with a bunch of friends. You see a gorgeous woman. One of your friends approaches her. Pointing to you he states, “He’s very rich. Marry him!” That’s advertising.
Finally, you’re at a party. You see a gorgeous woman. You get up, straighten your tie, check to make sure that there aren’t any nachos stuck in your teeth, walk over to her, pour her a drink, pick up her bag if she drops it, offer her a ride, open her car door, then say, “By the way, I’m very rich. Will you marry me?” That’s public relations.
Despite this silliness, the differences emerge. The first is a direct pitch (sale) to the consumer. The second is a strategic placement, intended to generate a transaction. The third is warming up the environment in which a sale can be made.
The commonality is in the courtship. Especially in marketing professional services, the similarities to dating are striking. Hardly any couples get engaged on a first date. Few sales are transacted when a product or service isn’t known, understood, or trusted.
How will you “court” your prospective clients? Just like dating, it requires thought, planning, strategy, and consistent execution. Whether you launch with PR, close with direct marketing, and test advertising along the way, it’s always about nurturing the relationship.