Many who are unfamiliar with PR think it's fluffy and tacky, filled with parties and gimmicks. But most PR investment in the UK goes to communicating services to a very discerning public, and it's a business that is growing 20% per annum in the UK. “The positive thing is if you are starting up a firm, PR is the way to get maximum impact from minimum outlay,” says Adrian Wheeler, chairman of thePublic Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) in London. The PRCA is an association in London devoted to the monitoring and selection of PR firms in the UK. “The press like new things. They like innovation and entrepreneurship. The return on investment [from PR] is like 1,000% for startups,” he added. Much can be said in the debate as to which is better: advertising or PR. An advertising executive will say PR offers short-term impact while advertising is more strategic. A PR executive will say good PR will offer both strategic and immediate impact. “Public relations is doing the ground work to allow advertising to work. If you see an ad you see the content. But an article will lead you to believe in the content of the advertisement,” said Steve Sawyer of the Institute of Public Relations. Indeed, PR and advertising often go hand in hand, but it generally boils down to cost, as PR tends to be less expensive than advertising. Putting together a press release targeted at certain newspapers and industry publications costs little more than your time. “A smaller firm can not always afford advertising. This even more applies if you are a startup, unless of course you have a strange circumstance and are well funded,” relates the PRCA's Wheeler.
He points to the number of Internet companies with strong bankrolls from investors such as Amazon.com which have advertised heavily since day one and have been successful doing so.