We read with great interest Julia Hood's commentary on the effectiveness of advertising (PRWeek, January 15). It goes a long way toward dispelling the urban legend that PR is always more effective than advertising.
Over the past year, in conjunction with a grant from the Institute for Public Relations, we conducted an experimental study comparing the effectiveness of print advertising with a national newspaper placement. The study used a hypothetical new-to-market consumer packaged goods product and measured numerous factors, including awareness, knowledge of the product, relevance, credibility, and intent to purchase.
While PR did have a slightly stronger positive impact on overall knowledge of the brand, the other measures were statistically identical for both. In essence, the myth of the "multiplier" effect doesn't exist, at least in this category.
This is not bad news for PR. In fact, it is a finding that PR pros should embrace. We can now definitely show that PR needs to have a place in all marketing communications planning.
Dr. Don Stacks
Professor and director
School of Communication
University of Miami
Dr. David Michaelson
Principal, David Michaelson & Co.
I strongly agree with the [aforementioned] column by Julia Hood. In my job at the American Red Cross, the corporate ad function comes under me and is seen as important in the overall communications mix.
Katrina made us realize we can't rely solely on reporters to convey the vital messages of the Red Cross to the public via "earned media." It's really not their job, anyway.
Occasional and strategic use of paid media ensures that we reach the right audiences with the right message at the right time... in tandem with other media avenues.
This is in line with wise advice I got many decades ago from John Pihas, who owned a Portland, OR, ad/PR firm. He said: "Don't be either a PR guy or an ad guy. They really don't understand each other's worlds. What you want to be is a communicator, [one] who understands and can effectively utilize every communications tool, not just the pitch and the press release."
SVP, comms and marketing
American Red Cross National HQ