Although I still believe there is a place for advertising as a brand-maintenance or brand-affirmation tool, I am convinced that to build a brand today you need PR.

At one time, advertising did build brands. But that was in a simpler world. That world, sadly, is no more.

I've been rereading The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR by Al and Laura Ries. It is their book that has moved me from having a mere suspicion of advertising's demise as a brand builder to total conviction that it is dead.

As the authors say, “Publicity is the nail, advertising is the hammer.” What does this mean? It means that your PR effort helps make your message believable so that your advertising will have credibility when it hits.

Typically, companies want to hit the market hard and make a lot of noise. Advertising allows you to launch quickly, control the message, and have your message in as many media as you have the money for. However, that does not mean your message will be believed. The louder advertisers yell, the less likely I am to believe them. How about you?

PR takes time and does not necessarily work on your schedule. Planting new ideas or changing minds is a slow process. When your PR program rolls out over a longer period of time, prospects have time to adjust their attitudes. Brands that take this approach are longer lasting, too.

Chevrolet, for years the number-one auto brand, was still number one in ad spending in 2001. It spent $819 million dollars—39 percent more than Ford spent. Still, Ford outsells Chevrolet by 33%.

Since 1997, Chevrolet has outspent and undersold Ford. Chevrolet spends $314 per vehicle, and Ford spends $170 per vehicle. Is advertising working for Chevrolet?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harry Hoover is managing principal of Hoover ink PR (www.hoover-ink.com). Reach him at harry@hoover-ink.com.