Advertising vs. Public Relations

By Nicol Colarusso, Chapter Member


Many think that advertising and public relations (PR) are the same thing. People assume advertisers and public relation specialists are no different from each other, and that both job descriptions are quite similar. Unfortunately, not only are people unaware that there is a difference, but also by getting grouped together, these professionals do not get the proper recognition they deserve.  In today’s standpoint, advertising and PR professionals must stand up for their profession, which may ultimately end up creating a feud between the two. Well, the feud ends here!

There are many factors that make advertising and public relations different from one another. In advertising, people are given more creativity and are allowed to explore different ways to get a message across to a target audience for the product or company they are working with. In public relations, constantly staying up to date with news, being familiar with the latest trends, and creating a relationship with their clients are very important aspects to the world of PR. You must research facts and release these stories to the media.

Free vs. paid

With advertising, companies must pay for an advertising firm to create and promote their products or services, which ultimately ends in major expenses.  The job of a public relations specialist is to get as much free publicity as possible for their company and clients. They need to spread the news about a company, what they offer and services they provide. They do this by writing press releases, holding news conferences and social networking, etc.

Control vs. no control

In advertising there is always a sense of complete control over the message and creativeness of the advertisement itself. Advertising professionals are able to choose the color, content and design that they feel best suits the client they are promoting. In PR there is very little to no control over how the media presents your information. PR professionals can write it as best as possible, but how others interpret it can be different than what you intended. The media can present your information however they perceive it which can be destructive to your message.

Time limit

Since you pay for an advertisement, the ad will run as long as your budget allows it to. This applies to radio, television, and print ads. However, in public relations, because the publicity is not paid for, it has a small window of promotional opportunity such as writing a press release or having a news conference until a PR crisis is over.

Consumer knowledge

When consumers see an advertisement they automatically know that they are trying to be sold or sucked into something, and automatically assume that they will have to spend money. People will sometimes not buy into the ad because they want to feel as though they are out smarting the ad companies. While with PR since consumers are seeing something that was not paid for, this makes them feel differently about the promotion. They feel better about spending money since they feel as it is still in their control.

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