Why a Press Release Instead of an Ad

Most everyone has heard the “Want free publicity, write a press release” spiel. Yet, too many small business owners still neglect this excellent source of exposure for their company and products.

“I’ll just run an ad. It’s easier,” they say.

Yet, if they really understood the impact of a press release compared to an advertisement, I don’t think they’d hesitate to make the most of this marketing strategy.

Let me share an exercise that I conducted in a networking meeting awhile back that should help you better understand the difference between a press release and an ad. This will also help you determine for yourself which is a better marketing strategy for your business.

Before the meeting, where I was the presenter, I cut several articles and news clippings from our local paper. None of the articles had bylines (“by Author’s Name”). The stories were published on various pages of the paper. Each was about a different topic.

As I began the presentation, I asked the group of about 20 small business owners to look briefly at each clipping and tell me what was significant about these stories.

Various items were mentioned — the subjects of the articles, the locations, the lengths. Yet no one touched on the one similarity. Almost without a doubt, each of these news stories were generated through a press release.

(Now, you may ask how I know that. In another town, I might not have, but I was personally familiar with this particular newspaper and knew their specific policy and format for printing news stories. Because there was no byline, and because the stories were not part of their regular columns, I was relatively sure that each of the stories I had chosen had been generated by a press release and written by a junior staff member.)

The purpose in this exercise was to point out that while some people (like me with personal knowledge of this paper and a journalism background) would know these were press releases, the majority of people wouldn’t. Most people, even well-educated ones like these business owners, would perceive these stories to be simply news stories written by the newspaper’s staff.

And that can be VERY significant to your business. Let’s consider…

If you read an article in the paper, what do you think? Usually, that it’s true. At least most of the time.

While we’ve learned that “you can’t believe everything you read,” to a certain extent, we still tend to believe that if a notable newspaper publishes a story, it’s true. Period.

On the other hand, how many advertisements that you read do you believe without question? Probably very few.

Reading an ad does not necessarily make you believe in that product. You know that someone paid to run that ad. You know the advertiser has an ulterior motive — profit. You know the purpose of an ad is to sell you something. So you don’t believe what an ad says just because you read it… EVEN IF YOU READ IT IN THE SAME NEWSPAPER.


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