Businesses looking to thrive through the economic downturn are continuing to find that public relations is one of the best ways to raise awareness and build credibility for their brands.

As CEO of Wasabi Publicity, I have found that PR is effective when the economy is struggling and when it is humming along. But why do businesses continue to budget for PR at a time when they have to watch every dime they spend?

The answer: because PR is so cost-effective. Nothing creates awareness and builds credibility more effectively than when a business, author or entrepreneur is covered by the media.

Say you land a placement in a popular magazine. You may have paid a publicist or spent your own time scoring this placement, but you didn’t pay the magazine to feature you in its pages. But what if you had? How much would it have cost you to buy an ad in the same magazine?

It wouldn’t have been cheap and it wouldn’t have the same effect as the placement. Why? Because a PR placement represents an implied endorsement from the media outlet that you have the goods and their readers should take notice. A mention in the media can be worth three to 10 times the value of a comparable ad because of the credibility factor.

As my business partner, Wasabi Publicity Chief Creative Officer Michelle Tennant Nicholson, noted in an article on a CNNMoney blog, PR and advertising serve somewhat different purposes. While businesses look to advertising to produce an immediate boost in sales, PR is about increasing the intangibles – credibility, awareness, word of mouth and buzz – that combine with all your other efforts to take your business to the next level.

The same article cited a study conducted by the University of Miami. It showed that advertising and PR perform comparably when it comes to creating a basic level of awareness of a product or service. But when it came to communicating depth of information and inspiring people to think about how a brand might fit into their lifestyle, PR was more effective.

This is one reason businesses continue to invest in PR despite the economic downturn. When the economy gets tighter and customers get pickier, businesses are looking to stand out. And nothing makes a business stand out like being covered in the media.

Today “the media” includes social media as well as the traditional media outlets like local and national TV, radio and print. More and more companies understand the growing importance of social media and hiring PR firms to boost their online exposure.

Just like with traditional media, it is important to remember that social media is not a lead generation tool. It is about making introductions and building relationships. Yet many businesses miss the boat and disregard this fact by coming out selling. If you went to a business convention and came up to everyone talking about how great your product was, you would get nowhere. It’s the same with social media. Build relationships first.

Whatever the stock market and the larger economy are doing, business owners have to stay focused on building their business. Even when the economy is down, PR offers companies a way to build the credibility, awareness and buzz they need to stay in the public mind and grow even stronger when the economy finally rebounds.

Author: L. Drew Gerber is CEO of and creator of, a free media tool that connects journalists and the highest rated experts. Gerber’s business practices and staffing innovations have been revered by PR Week, Good Morning America and the Christian Science Monitor. His companies handle international PR campaigns and his staff develops online press kits for authors, speakers and companies with Online PressKit 24/7, a technology he developed ( Contact L. Drew Gerber at: [email protected] or call him at 828-749-3548.