JoTo Extreme PR Clarifies the Relationship Between Public Relations and Marketing, and Their Roles in Building and Maintaining Brands

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With 38% of Business Leaders Uncertain as to the Role of Public Relations, Tampa Bay PR Firm JoTo Explains How to Effectively Leverage Business PR

“When businesses don’t recognize the roles and capabilities of public relations versus marketing, there’s a good chance they’re not optimizing their communication budget – and they’re probably wondering why they’re not achieving results,”

JoTo Extreme PR, a noted Tampa Bay public relations agency, asserts that business communication expenditures should be driven by a results-oriented strategy, particularly in today’s uncertain economy; yet JoTo’s own research suggests that many organizations don’t fully understand how to use tools available to them. When JoTo surveyed business leaders across a range of Inc. 5000 companies, more than one-third were unable to differentiate between public relations and marketing activities – 20% equated PR with advertising, while 18% regarded PR as a form of promotion.

“When businesses don’t recognize the roles and capabilities of public relations versus marketing, there’s a good chance they’re not optimizing their communication budget – and they’re probably wondering why they’re not achieving results,” stated Karla Jo Helms Ciotti, co-founder and CEO of JoTo. “Many assume that the more they spend on creative and media buys, the more successful their campaign will be. But in today’s economic climate, that’s an irresponsible – and costly – assumption to make. Smart strategists will first invest in public relations to build a brand before launching any sort of paid messaging to support it.”

Helms Ciotti explains that many consumers are inherently skeptical of advertising; they realize they are being sold to, and their existing opinion of a company will determine whether they are positively or negatively predisposed its marketing messages. “Your audience needs to like and trust you before they’ll listen to you and consider what you have to say,” she noted. “In light of that, you can see why it doesn’t make much sense to launch a new brand with an expensive ad campaign. You can’t tell people what to think of your product or service. They’re inclined to make up their mind based on what they’ve heard elsewhere, through their friends and family, online research and other unbiased, third-party sources.”

For clients of her Tampa Bay PR agency, Helms Ciotti advises a steady build-up through public relations – as opposed to an aggressive ad campaign – to give prospective customers a chance to get to know the company or brand. This also helps to build credibility and trust. “Consider how you’d react to a smooth-talking stranger who approaches you on the street and immediately tries to persuade you about something. You’d probably be wary, and question his motives,” remarked Helms Ciotti. “But if a friend introduces you to someone new, and has good things to say about that person, you’re more likely to engage in a conversation with him and give him the benefit of doubt. These examples illustrate how advertising and public relations are likely to be perceived, and why PR is more effective than advertising at introducing new brands.”

This PR-first approach is recommended by many seasoned communications professionals. “Advertising doesn’t build brands, publicity does. Advertising can only maintain brands that have been created by publicity,” declared marketing strategists Al Ries and Laura Ries in The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR.* They cite a number of successful brands that were built on PR, including Starbucks, Walmart, the Body Shop, Palm and Red Bull. According to the father/daughter team, “The truth is, advertising cannot start a fire. It can only fan a fire after it has been started. To get something going from nothing, you need the validity that only third-party endorsements can bring. The first stage of any new campaign ought to be public relations.”

The concept of public relations paving the way for advertising and marketing isn’t a new one, but it’s something that many executives have been slow to embrace – especially since most haven’t been formally trained in PR. Helms Ciotti and her team see it as their duty to educate businesses on the use of public relations and marketing. In addition to providing strategy services to clients of her Tampa Bay PR firm, she also shares free public relations and marketing advice via JoTo’s blog and e-newsletters.

“It’s important for companies to learn how to get the best return on their communications budget. Business PR is a vital tool for building awareness and goodwill, and it lays the necessary groundwork for future marketing campaigns,” said Helms Ciotti. “Public relations can elicit genuine enthusiasm and affection for a brand, which in turn can get promoted through social media, blogs and other forums. Advertising can then build upon and reinforce those messages, helping to maintain an established brand over the long haul. This approach helps to shorten the sales cycle, which is what Business PR is all about in the end.”

For more information about JoTo, including the various services and free resources available from the Tampa Bay public relations agency, visit

About JoTo Extreme PR
Based in Clearwater, Florida, JoTo Extreme PR is an established Tampa Bay public relations agency founded by public relations veterans and innovators Karla Jo Helms Ciotti and Diane D. Stein. The duo launched their PR firm in 2009 to meet a growing demand for new media expertise. JoTo is a hybrid PR agency, blending proven traditional approaches with the latest technology to deliver the best advantages of both worlds. JoTo’s holistic approach to Business PR and marketing begins with strategic planning and leads to a fully integrated program that is designed to optimize communication, improve return on investment (ROI) and expand business opportunities. For more information, visit JotTo Extremem PR online at

  • Ries, Al, and Laura Ries. The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2002.


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Diane D. Stein