PR Firms Are A Bargain Compared To Advertising

One of the biggest challenges facing the PR industry was addressed in a  recent Wall Street Journal story: measurement (Having represented more than 20 Fortune 500 companies, and owning a Top 25 Public Relations firm, I will readily admit that there’s no uniform measurement standard amongst PR professionals.

At my agency, 5WPR, like many other PR agencies, we have a proprietary system for measuring media results, and it works. Different agencies, and different companies assign different values – some speak of advertising equivalency, other measure tone and message, and others assign value based upon the reach to target demographics. Different measurements – not unusual in an unscientific industry.

Yet, there’s tremendous value to positive media coverage – Authenticity matters, so PR which is placed and is authentic resonates more than paid for advertising matters (assuming the story is positive and sends the right message to the right demographic). Public Relations, rather uniquely compared to marketing and advertising provides independent third-party recognition and endorsement – even more valuable today than ever before as the media world is more crowded than ever before.

While we’d all agree that PR needs a better mechanism by which to be measured, lets not neglect that there is a huge value to publicity (even as I’d be the 1st to say that the PR person who said there was a $10 Million value to the man and woman kissing on the pavement in Vancouver is absurdly high).

Lets not overlook the fact that a $1 Million RFP in the PR agency world would have every agency jumping up and down, and wouldn’t even merit a mention in the advertising trades. PR is significantly cheaper – by many multiples – than other marketing programs. IBIS World, a media research firm, says PR spending in 2010 was $9.73 billion and says it will grow to $12.82 billion by 2015.  Advertising ? Even after some declines, its about $210.5 billion a year in the U.S.

Publicity remains a tremendous bargain – and while the measurement may not yet be ideal – the cost most certainly is.

Ronn Torossian


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