Marketing Matters Boost Your Firm’s Brand

PR Can Glean Big Exposure on Small Budgets

I was teaching marketing at a special Small Business Administration class for new women entrepreneurs. I started by asking how many had a marketing program, or at least a budget to start that work.

Wendy J. Meyeroff

Several said the same thing: “I can’t afford even small ads.”

That confusion between “marketing” and “advertising” is not unusual in any business, and legal organizations are no exception. Instead of ads, try one of the greatest — but oft-overlooked — tools for marketing: public relations, aka PR.


Advertising’s goal is only one thing: sales. Oh, ads can be funny or moving or initiate other emotions, but they’re still all about winning wallets, not hearts. It’s actually been shown that even the most enjoyed ads don’t always generate sales.

One of the key examples is a TV beer commercial that ran from the mid-1950s to early ’60s. It featured two cartoon drawings of the “Piels Brothers,” Harry and Bert, touting the Brooklyn-based Piels Brewing company. Their insights on life were so clever that at one point their fan club had 100,000 members.

Yet those fans weren’t running out to purchase Piels beer. Over six years, the boys barely increased sales. Indeed, the numbers showed less than 1% growth per year on average.


In contrast, PR provides solid, more objective information. The Public Relations Society of America offers this definition: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Of course PR material wants to enhance sales — but it doesn’t come across as a sales pitch. This voice truly attracts customer interest, builds relationships and then generates sales.

For example, I was once part of the team launching the first Vision Expo, a trade show for the optical industry. All the marketing was mostly ads and a few press releases in trade publications. Unexpectedly, one board member suggested a consumer news item … about 10 days before the show.

“Instead of ever being leery of press releases and overall PR, you and your firm should see it as far more image-enhancing than advertising and well within most budgets.”

As the only woman at the meeting, I suggested the “10 Best Dressed Eyes in America” to take advantage of the growing understanding that — like shoes — we could change eyewear to match our clothing (e.g., a sparkly pair to go with cocktail gowns vs. sunglasses to go with running clothes). They agreed, I knocked it out quickly and sent the approved final to the Associated Press.

Amazingly this inundated (free!) news outlet actually chose and distributed our release, and the story exploded around the country, no extra budget dollars required. And the show got something like 20,000 more attendees than expected. How much the consumer message led to this, I don’t know — but it certainly didn’t hurt.


Are you a clandestine storyteller? Someone who blogs under a pseudonym or writes only in notebooks? Then maybe you can conceive and write the stories — even ghostwriting for your leader.

Or perhaps you know it would be better to delegate creating press releases to someone else in the office. Or there’s another option: a team — not just one person — that bats around ideas monthly or quarterly, crafting really interesting and unique stories.

It’s also crucial to determine what’s generating the stories. Is your information very basic, with maybe some stats pulled off the web? Will you be handed quotes from your firm’s executives, or will you be told who to interview for specific topics? Will interviews only be internal or — to create a more objective story — will you be allowed to find and quote outside experts?


Getting a press release picked up means you need a media list. You can buy them or research and create your own.

Or maybe you (or whoever else in the firm has the authority) might decide that it would be smarter to hire a professional resource to develop and distribute releases. It can be a single-person operation or a larger firm. Like any marketing decision, do your research to determine how you like to work, your budget and other details.


Finally, understand that today’s marketing options offer you all sorts of ways to take one PR item and reuse it. That’s another reason PR is very cost-effective.

For example, years ago I wrote a story for a client in the automotive world about protecting pooches from antifreeze when you’re doing your own car updates. It got picked up in tons of papers then, but can’t you see that working as a blog today?

And then, once the blog’s on a website, couldn’t you tweet about it? How about pasting it into a LinkedIn Pulse story, with news about it being available linked to specific niches? What about pulling any stats from the story to craft and distribute an infographic?

Technology keeps growing recycling options — at a relatively minimal budget. That’s why instead of ever being leery of press releases and overall PR, you and your firm should see it as far more image-enhancing than advertising and well within most budgets.