Public relations is one of the most powerful weapons in the brand building arsenal. A smart PR strategy is best for generating word of mouth and driving positive outcomes.

Many businesses believe that advertising is the most effective way to drive revenue, but that era is long gone. In their book, provocatively entitled, “The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR,” Al and Laura Ries make a persuasive case that advertising as a brand builder is dead. Food for thought: According to author Tom Himpe, 20 years ago you could reach 80 percent of the American public with three TV commercials. Today, it takes 150. The market is that saturated.

My intention is not to slam advertising across the board. As part of a campaign to strengthen the brand that PR has already built, advertising has its merits. The reason I bring it up, though, is that invariably, when I sit around the table with company leaders to discuss their business goals, one or two people usually say, “We need to do more advertising!”

Sadly, public relations is under-used by those for whom it makes the most sense as a strategy (entrepreneurs, start-ups and struggling small businesses) because of a lack of understanding of what public relations actually is. I urge you to educate yourself and get your head out of social media or advertising as your primary tactics. You’re spending too much money for too little ROI.

Among other things, public relations builds and maintains positive relationships. Some of it includes help from the media. Because people believe what they read or hear in traditional and digital media outlets, public relations carries more credibility, and thus more power, than your sales materials or advertising. A strong public relations program brings new customers to your door, and builds loyalty with your existing customers because PR earns trust.

Here are some ways you can use public relations tactics to your best advantage.

All of your customer facing and business development personnel need to have professional and optimized LinkedIn profiles. LinkedIn is part of the digital PR strategy that helps you cultivate business relationships and build your brand as a thought leader. It’s a new paradigm. It reflects badly on your organization when your team has unprofessional-looking, incomplete, misspelled or poorly written LinkedIn profiles.

Promote your subject matter experts. Under the collected roofs of your institution are people with expertise on a range of interesting topics. Media outlets are always seeking out people to interview for articles, especially in light of late-breaking current events. Advice from your experts can be translated into blogs, social media posts and articles. Content is in high demand these days, and you are sitting on a gold mine.

Nominate your institution for awards. It takes a bit of research, but opportunities to win recognition are common in the regions in which you do business. Winning a “Best Place to Work” award may seem trifling, but there are numerous ways to use the title to your advantage. Again, people believe what they read, and if you’ve won any kind of “Best of” award, then it must be true!

Be patient. Don’t quit. Public relations is a long-term, committed effort. Don’t expect results overnight. Have the faith to know that your dogged and consistent pursuit to build relationships and a positive perception of your institution has a measureable effect on your bottom line.