CSX is losing the public relations battle in Central Florida these days. The railroad has become fodder for many a local blogger, such as Lakeland Local, Empirical Polk and the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce blog , which all have devoted space to the topic. Then there are the articles in area newspapers about CSX. I’ve remained on the sidelines and don’t wish to discuss the pros and cons of a Winter Haven rail hub in this blog post. However, I strongly encourage checking out the three blogs linked above if you’re at all curious or interested in the topic.
What I DO want to discuss is the decreasing power of advertising and the increasingly powerful tool of public relations. I define the two jobs as such: advertising is what you say about yourself. Public relations is what others say about you.
In the March 3 edition of The Ledger, CSX ran an advertisement on page A9 that stated: “Perhaps the most important thing we deliver doesn’t arrive in our freight cars. Our low-emission locomotives help improve air quality and dramatically reduce fuel consumption.”
Well, let’s all gather ’round CSX and give them a big, green hug! Does anyone buy that line?! Since when did any locomotive actually IMPROVE air quality? Does it perhaps REDUCE the harmful effects, as opposed to other, older locomotives cause ? Perhaps. Only through advertising could you get away with a line such as that.
I’m currently reading The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, by Al Ries and his daughter, Laura Ries. In the book, the authors discuss how advertising no longer is effective because it lacks credibility. This CSX advertisement drives that point home, in my opinion.
The best way, in my opinion, for business owners to build buzz about a product or service is to generate publicity through means other than advertising. Few people have the money to build a brand through advertising alone these days, and even then, it’s arguable whether it would be successful. Build the brand through a good public relations campaign. Once the PR campaign has run its course, the advertising campaign should back up the branding created with the PR campaign.
Can they make up for it through advertising?