You always build your brand through public relations. Advertising is used to maintain your position—only once you “own” the brand.
Remember, brands are perceptions—what people think of you. That happens when articles are written about you, through word-of-mouth, and always through a third party. Communities are sometimes dealt negative brands via the same vehicles: word-of-mouth, bad news, or articles that all paint a negative, but are often true, perception of the community, whether fairly deserved or not. The same methods hold true for well-branded communities and the same tools must be used if you need to reposition or redevelop a brand. It all starts with a strong PR effort.
Public relations, intertwined with third-party endorsements, is absolutely critical to developing a strong brand. These days, social media has become a primary ingredient and tool to “brand building.” Perhaps no community in North America has done a better job at branding than Asheville, North Carolina. Check out their website at http://www.exploreasheville.com. Cool. Hip. Artsy. Funky. And the must-visit place along the 500-mile Blue Ridge Parkway.
Advertising is what you think of yourself. Branding is what other people think of you. To win, you must have those third-party endorsements that only an effective PR effort can provide. Then when you “own” your brand, advertise it like crazy to cement that ownership position into the minds of the people you hope to attract.
No matter how many “wine countries” we develop in North America, Napa Valley will always “own” the wine capital brand. There are Amish communities throughout the central and eastern U.S. states, but Lancaster County, Pennsylvania “owns” the Amish brand. No matter how many casinos and gambling destinations we develop, Las Vegas will always “own” the gambling and adult-fun capital brand.
Brands are always about ownership. And that happens through PR, followed by advertising to cement that ownership position.