Use public relations to create buzz.

If your budget looks like mine, you’re probably cutting back on advertising and ramping up your PR efforts. A common misconception is that advertising and public relations are the same. Let me clarify. Advertising is paid placement; PR is third-party coverage, as in a reporter included you or your business in an article. This can be much more credible than advertising, but you lose the control you have when you place an ad. Keep in mind the pros and cons of both. A good PR campaign can have lasting effects, creating buzz and driving sales.

For one entrepreneur, doing her own public relations paid off—big time. Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx—footless pantyhose—debated whether to use a big PR agency or do her own publicity work in-house. “I believed so much in my dream that the idea of someone pitching it who maybe hadn’t even worn Spanx just completely freaked me out,” Sara said in a Startup Nation article. Working out of the back of her apartment, Sara hired a PR assistant and went after celebrity testimonials, receiving rave reviews from stars Renee Zellweger and Gwyneth Paltrow. She even sent a gift basket to Oprah that landed her on Oprah’s “Favorite Things” show and a nice endorsement from the media mogul. The next day her sales skyrocketed.

“With no money to advertise, I had to do things in a way that were on the edge. A lot of news editors and other people hung up on me at first when I said, ‘I’m calling from Spanx.’ But I took the most boring subject on the planet, pantyhose, and made it something people wanted to talk about,” Sara said. Sara’s strategy worked, putting her on the cover of magazines, on a top-rated reality TV show and as head of a $150 million-dollar business offering 100 different styles.

If PR isn’t your forte, consider hiring someone or working with an outside agency. Do you have publicity success stories? Let us know!