Public Relations vs. Advertising

A few months ago, I was at a social gathering with friends and someone asked me how my job was in advertising. When I said I actually do public relations, the response was, “well, isn’t that the same?” Of course not. Advertising is paid and PR is earned, or “free,” through cultivating relationships with media. On my way home I began thinking further about that comment and realized that with the resources and connections we nurture on a day-to-day basis, PR is in fact uniquely different from advertising.

Here’s a look at some of these differences:

  1. Third-party credibility can be established by working with the media. PR allows others to hear your message and create third-party content that is more trustworthy to consumers than the message you create and pay to have them see.
  2. Social media gives PR professionals the opportunity to leverage this third-party content.
  3. PR pros and reporters work together to reach the same target audience. Advertising and editorial don’t (or shouldn’t) mix.
  4. Self-publishing allows PR professionals to create our client’s own content and share the message we want to share, but it isn’t as pointed as advertising campaigns.
  5.  An article positioned by PR professionals has a chance to be a front page or section front page article. An advertisement won’t run on a front page.

Through these various methods you can honestly influence public opinion. We aren’t in Mad Men days anymore; people know that advertising is paid messaging made by a brand to convince them to do or buy something. Although many people’s decisions continue to be influenced by advertising, some people are cynical of it. While ads are still successful in their own right, they rarely influence long-lasting public opinion.

However, public relations and advertising do need to work hand-in-hand in order to create a full marketing campaign and establish the biggest impact for a brand.

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