History may very well record 2019 as the year that our society-at-large hit maximum capacity in terms of advertising. The stream of ad intrusion into every conceivable space has grown into a raging torrent of never-ending and often overwhelming marketing noise.
While this has been a benefit to platforms that host ad space, it has left the public exhausted and skeptical from overexposure. It has also created an environment in which it is much more difficult for businesses to connect and engage with their audiences in a meaningful way. I’ve seen this firsthand thanks to my work in the PR and communications industry.
Instead of bombarding their target audience with a deluge of ads likely to irritate them or be ignored, businesses should consider adopting smart public relations (PR).
Point Of Diminishing Returns
Some experts estimate that the average person sees up to 5,000 advertisements per day. Ads have invaded our lives, showing up everywhere we turn, from apps to newspapers to TV to websites.
There are a number of lasting problems with our current advertising ecosystem, the most obvious being that there is simply too much information buzzing around for any one ad campaign to be highly effective. After a while, the average person starts to feel under assault by faceless marketing teams all vying for their dollars and attention.
In addition to the sheer volume, people are becoming increasingly aware that the goal of advertisers is not just to push out content but also to harvest our personal information.
Unlike with PR, most people understand that what they see from an advertiser is carefully presented to increase the company’s bottom line. This creates natural skepticism in the audience and must be overcome by any business trying to reach them.
What’s more, concerns continue to grow about the loss of privacy as tech giants turn to “big data” to inform their marketing plans. Large swaths of the public go to great lengths to ignore, dodge and block the onslaught of ads. It has become standard practice for app developers and streaming services to monetize our aversion to advertising by charging a premium for the privilege of enjoying ad-free versions of their products.
The fact is, people are increasingly overtargeted and overexposed and tired of being on the receiving end of marketing messages. Modern-day businesses wanting to reach their audiences without becoming a source of frustration or turning off potential customers are increasingly turning to an alternate approach to engage their audience. Enter smart, strategic PR.
PR actually allows companies to avoid many of the innate disadvantages inherent in today’s advertising. PR is far less intrusive to the customer’s experience and does not force people to hand over their attention to advertisers as they count down the remaining time of an ad or await the opportunity to hit the words “skip ad” on the screen of their smartphone.
Instead, PR is totally embedded into the content that the viewer already wants, and it actually earns their attention through relatable and interesting storytelling. This distinction between paid media and earned media can mean all the difference.
PR delivers messaging through the use of — not intrusion into — media platforms. PR is a way to build a brand or drive a message through third-party social proof that establishes a level of trust with the audience. This is authentic engagement that passes through the natural screening processes that we have developed for unsolicited ad placements. The idea behind PR is to cultivate a level of credibility for the brand that sells itself and creates affinity in a subtle and strategic fashion.
Another major edge that PR has over modern advertising is related to the shelf life of each. With advertising, the engagement ceases immediately when the ad disappears or when the ad campaign is shut down. This forces companies to continually pay into the advertising process in order to see results.
Conversely, PR exposure lives on well after the foundation is set — especially in our digitized world. As press mentions, articles, interviews and other content begin to accumulate across various media outlets, the organization relying upon PR develops a media footprint that generates valuable brand equity that actually compounds with time. Since internet content lives forever, over time, the content actually gains relevance and rises through the results provided by search engines.
Advertising and public relations are both popular and necessary ways for businesses to get in front of audiences with their messages. But in this current environment of excessive marketing, companies not getting the results they desire through advertising alone should also give strategic PR a try.