As long as we think something is cool, desirable or amazing, we'll will it to be that way. Perception - and in the case of the ad industry, some may say deception - is a far more powerful influencer on purchasing behaviour than fact. Marketing discipline of choice
This got me thinking - if influencing perceptions with no real regard for fact is the name of the game, should not PR, rather than advertising, be the marketing discipline of choice for large corporate budgets?
PR, by its very nature, tries to influence the perceptions of the public without changing anything about the product (whether that be a company, brand or person). No new logo, redesigned packaging, or different price structure. No snazzy TV ad, glitzy event (PR does not equal events) or thought-provoking print campaign.
Sutherland talked about ad execs being in the business of intangible value creation. But if anyone is in the business of intangible value creation, surely it's we PR professionals? Purest form
In my mind, PR is the purest form of intangible value creation. Take the recent SABRE winner
for best Financial Communications campaign: Hawaiian Airlines. The entire campaign was based on a 'new messaging architecture that developed a compelling proposition for the airline'.
In reality, this is just a fancy way of saying that Hawaiian Airlines' PR agency wrote a whole bunch of clever statements about the airline's vision, leadership and financials and spoon-fed these to the media, along with a few hors d'oeuvres and cocktails in coconut shells.
But don't get me wrong - PR can't create something out of nothing. As a colleague of mine likes to say, 'spin' is just another word for 'lie', so PRs, like advertisers, need something tangible to work with. A sexier way of saying
In essence, though, PR campaigns the world over are exactly the same as the Hawaiian Airlines example (albeit usually not as well-executed). Media relations, stakeholder relations, investor relations - they're all just a sexier way of saying: we'll add value to your brand by saying the right things to the right people at the right time. Then - hopefully - those people will repeat what we've told them through various media until it spreads to your target audience, and they begin believing it too.
Every touch point is as intangible as the resulting value, which, if done correctly, is often far greater than any perceived value that could have been generated through an advertising campaign.
So as advertising budgets are being cut, and a thicker slice of the slimmer's pie is going to PR, should we not be asking ourselves whether the best way to create intangible value is not, perhaps, to think more seriously about PR as the creator of intangible values and advertising as its amplifier?