Law firms have asked me whether they should undertake an advertising or public relations campaign. My response can be both or neither. The reason is that until a firm has done the basics involving strategic marketing planning, either or both could be a total waste of money.

If a firm doesn’t know where it wants to end up, who its target audience should be, and what clients it really wants to serve, then any advertising or public relation campaign is premature.

Furthermore, firms need to understand the significant differences between advertising and PR. Paramjit Mahli, who may have a slight bias (as do I), addresses the distinction between the two on her Profiting With Public Relations blog, and is worth taking a look at.

As to which is better, my bias comes down on the side of PR; but advertising can also be useful, especially in raising a law firm’s profile with intended audiences. However, the latter does not make my Top 10 Marketing Tips for developing business. As I see it the three main differences include:


Public Relations

Paid for (and can be expensive)

Free (except for PR agency costs)

Firm specifies message

Message controlled by reporter/editor

Comes across as sales pitch, which it is

More credible, as sales pitch is made by others

Whether one or the other, or both, is right for your law firm will depend, in my judgment, on where your firm is in terms of its marketing and business development program.