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Public Relations Versus Advertising

Public Relations Versus Advertising

Knowing the difference will help you make the right choice.

Webster defines public relations as the business of generating goodwill toward an individual, cause, company, or product. In the United States, it dates back to the Revolutionary War when PR strategies and tactics were used to swell the ranks of patriots dedicated to the Revolutionary cause. President Thomas Jefferson first used the term “public relations” in 1807 in his “Seventh Address to the Congress,” when he replaced the words “state of thought” with “public relations.”

Advertising is the activity of attracting public attention to a product or business with paid announcements in the print, broadcast, or electronic media. According to Wikipedia, it dates back to the Egyptians using papyrus, a material resembling paper, to make sales messages and wall posters. In Europe during the middle ages, the general population was unable to read, so sign makers used images to attract people to the cobbler, miller, tailor and blacksmith. And, in colonial America, Benjamin Franklin used advertising to reach out to readers with innovative headlines and illustrations placed next to editorial material.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) does a good job of summing up the difference:

Advertising is a way of buying control. Public relations sacrifices some measure of control for the greater reward of credibility.

Anyone can buy advertising.  PR must be earned.

So, how do you decide what’s right for your business or organization? In many cases, a combination of both is important, especially if you have a product to sell.

According to the Small Business Administration, if done correctly, advertising can do wonders for product sales because you have complete control. You choose where and how often your message will appear and you can place it consistently in front of your target market within multiple venues. It tends to work for product sales more than services and advertising can be expensive, especially major newspapers and television stations, so you have to make sure you get it right the first time.

Our clients who advertise value the opportunity it presents to track tangible results with promotional codes and coupon redemption. In all cases, we use proven strategies of clear and concise messages, attention-getting graphics and optimal placement, including accompanying editorial copy whenever possible.

On the other hand, when you’re featured in a newspaper article or television segment you lose some control, but you gain credibility because you were selected to be a featured expert or share your story of success. According to Michael Levine, author of Guerilla P.R., “Depending on how you measure and monitor, an article is between 10 and100 times more valuable than an advertisement.”

Public relations campaigns also have measurable outcomes. For example, through our PR strategy for the 2015 Saint Louis Art Fair, we secured 30 television segments, 8 radio interviews, 13 newspaper articles and 12 online media placements. If the client had purchased that much advertising, her total ad buy would have been $263,331. Instead, she hired CEL to secure and coordinate the coverage, saving thousands of dollars in ad buys. She reached 1,241,548 people with her message and enhanced the credibility of the event and the artists, driving traffic to the event, leading to record sales.

Ask yourself if you have a story to tell or a product or service to sell and make your public relations and advertising decisions based on the answer. Consult professionals to help you strategize and get the most for your money.

Published on: April 26, 2016