Public Relations and Advertising; so what’s the difference?
On a regular basis I often find clients rather perplexed with the differences that do exist between public relations and advertising. The two industries are rather different even though they are commonly confused. Advertising usually incorporates over-the-top techniques in order to garner attention where a public relations campaign will be more restrained in the approach.
The following will work to clarify the differences that do exist between public relations and advertising:
Free Coverage vs. Paid Space
The goal with public relations is to work strategic relationships with the media in order for Editors, Reporters, and Producers to write editorial coverage or include in a television segment a particular company’s product/service.
A company pays the media outlet for advertising space that features the product/service. The company is also responsible for having the ad created.
Credible vs. Limited Credibility
When consumers read edit or see coverage on television of a company’s product or service that’s written or presented by a third party they know that the company did not pay for it. With that in mind there is an increased credibility factor that does exist amongst consumers.
Consumers know when they’ve encountered an advertisement whether in a magazine or on television that they’re trying to be sold something. The main goal of an advertisement both in the copy and the creative approach is to persuade consumers to see why that company’s product/service should be purchased.
Limited Control vs. Complete Control
Because the media is introduced to a company’s product/service through either a press release or a pitch, that media outlet can then expand upon the message to suit a particular feature’s main theme. This means that after a media outlet further reviews a company’s product/service that company cannot dictate what or how a writer or reporter presents the coverage.
Because a company pays for a particular message to be communicated within an advertisement this means that the copy within the ad will print or broadcast exactly how it’s created.
Achievements vs. Persuasion
A public relations campaign is used to work with the media in order to communicate the achievements that a particular company has attained through their products/services.
An advertising campaign is used to persuade consumers through strategic market differentiation in order to consumers to purchase that product/service.
With each company there are different needs and goals when it comes to getting a specific message out to the media. That is why there are some instances where a public relations campaign would be ideal in meeting those goals. On the other hand, there are also times when an advertising campaign is the perfect vehicle to get a company to the next level. What more, and often seen as most effective is when a company will run both a public relations and an advertising campaign simultaneously in order to compound the overarching message and deliver both sustainable credibility as well as persuasive message.
All in all public relations is a cost-effective way of getting your story out to the media. The time investment of writing effective press releases and successful pitches to build a relationship with the relevant media will, in time, pay dividends in the form of exposure and prestige. Best of all, public relations probably costs less than a single advertisement.
“If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.” – Bill Gates