understanding the basic difference between PR vs advertising and why do companies need both these industries

Brands listen up! Public relations and advertising are two very distinct industries, even though they are often confused as being the same.

While both industries have the same underlying goal: to help businesses thrive, each plays a remarkably different role. To put simply, advertising is paid media and PR is earned media, and that’s just the bare bones explanation of the two industries. Let’s delve into the many differences and help you differentiate between the two disciplines.

  1. Paid Coverage versus Free Coverage
    Advertising: You straight up pay for the ad space in any type of media (print, digital, radio or TV) and you know exactly when that ad will be aired or published.PR: This, on the other hand, is about the strategic communications process. The role of a PR professional is to get free publicity for the company (plus its product and services). It’s about earned media — this means you’ve earned the space in the newspaper, on airtime or radio because your content is newsworthy.
  2. Duration of Coverage
    Advertising: Since you’re paying for space and ad-time, you can run the ads over as many times as your budget permits.PR: You send the press release about the product, service or an event to as many journalists as you want, and it’s up to them when and how to publish it (or to even publish at all). And if they do, it’s because you’ve earned it!
  3. Creative Control
    Advertising: You’re paying for it so you have full control over the content including where, when and how many times will it be seen in the media.PR: You have no control over how media will choose to present your brand, where they place it in their outlet, or how much space or air time they will give you.
  4. Trust and credibility
    Advertising: Readers/Consumers recognize paid advertisements and understand they come from biased sources and that the company mentioned is trying to sell them something.PR: The article written by the journalist is presented in an unbiased manner so public views it differently than a paid media. It’s more credible than self-promotion. It also relies a lot on word of mouth.
  5. Performance Metric
    Advertising: It enjoys a high level of measurement tools and analytics. You can see how many people your ad has reached and its effect on sales (for instance did it jump after you ran the ad or bump after you dropped it).PR: There’s a direct correlation between advertising and sales that isn’t so direct when it comes to PR. PR is about reputation and influencing people…so it’s not as easy to measure as advertising. In advertising, there is a metric called cost per acquisition that tells you how much it cost to acquire the customer. In PR, there is no cost per acquisition metric.
  6. Target Audience
    Advertising: Your company pays for an advertisement that’s directly placed in the media as per your target audience (like on women’s website or a food and beverage magazine).PR: PR professionals can leverage their contacts to get your product listed in a variety of mediums (article, tweet, media newsletter, through influencers or a FB/IG post) It’s more effective than advertising because your business can reach your target audience through various sources.The important thing to remember is that successful campaigns integrate both PR and advertising. The teams should get together on a regular basis and share ideas and plans, and most importantly data. The marketing teams have access to tremendous data that can elevate everyone’s communications game! So next time you see a great campaign – it probably worked hard to deliver an integrated approach!