Public Relations & Advertising – What’s The Difference?

People often confuse the role of advertising with public relations. While both of these result in media placement, they use radically different methods and play very distinct roles in informing consumers.

Advertising involves promoting a personality, brand, product or service through paid means. Examples of this include billboard ads, television commercials and sponsored podcasts. Comparatively, public relations is not paid for and instead relies on a PR professional crafting a newsworthy angle to garner media attention. Effective PR requires skill, attention, media relationships and a nose for news. Examples of PR include news releases, featured stories and television segments.

Cost & Control Both PR and advertising can work together hand in hand to create a robust communications strategy for brands. The main difference between the two methods is cost, control and credibility. Advertising is expensive (think $150K for a placement in Vogue or $2M to appear on HGTV), but along with that hefty price tag comes the benefit of having full control over messaging, visuals and placement. In short, with advertising you create the actual content and pay for guaranteed placement. Alternatively, public relations’ function is to inform content creators such as online and print journalists, influencers and TV producers, so that they can in turn share the information with their audiences. 

Credibility, Influence and Trust Why have an advertisement that runs alongside the news when you can be seamlessly integrated into the news story? Consider for a moment your motivation behind watching TV, reading a magazine, or browsing a website. You’re viewing it for the content, not for the advertisements. Ads are often overlooked because of this reality, and even when they are viewed, consumers are inherently skeptical of advertisements because they know it’s a sales ploy. When a media outlet drafts a story using public relations content, consumers are more likely to trust and respond to their message simply because the product or brand has earned the media’s stamp of approval. Effective PR stems from credibility and is far more interesting to your potential consumer than an ad.

PR can be far more powerful than advertising; a well executed PR plan can help shape your brand, build consumer trust, position your organization as an industry leader and boost sales. PR can also involve a multifaceted approach that incorporates events, celebrity placement and social media management. If you’d like to learn more about public relations or how we can help, please get in touch via our contact page.