Public Relations vs. Advertising: What’s best for your business?

Public Relations (PR) and advertising are two marketing verticals that many business professionals tend to confuse. Those who haven’t yet delved into either can struggle to understand their differences, purposes and goals. Advertising is there to immediately promote a product or service and aims for direct inquiries and sales. PR, on the other hand, is focused around communications and brand reinforcement with the media and the public. It works to benefit the brand in the long-term, ultimately helping to lead towards direct inquiries and sales.

With advertising, you’re promoting something to entice your target audience to think, act or believe a certain thing about your product or service, which can be hyped up through creative work and buzzwords. PR relies on opinions and comments from sources that have no affiliation with your company or brand. This is where strong brand awareness and trust for a product or service is created among consumers.

Understandably, every business will have different goals and good, consistent PR, coupled with a solid advertising strategy, is the true match. The two verticals complement each other and neither should be discounted from the overall marketing plan. Essentially, it’s all about a balanced mix to give your customers accurate, relevant information and the business the highest returns possible.

To help you understand the key differences, here are a few things worth knowing:

  • Paid and earned coverage – what does this actually mean?

Advertising comes under the ‘paid coverage’ banner. It is the space you buy to promote your product or service. You own it and can therefore present it in any way you wish (within legal and ethical restrictions!) Be prepared to spend some big bucks here, as while advertising can generate instant results, this does come at a price.

PR is earned coverage, which generally does not cost you money and holds valuable credibility that advertising can not match. However, how your story is published or what’s being said about your product or service is out of your hands (which should not be viewed as a bad or negative thing.)

  • Creative control

Advertising grants you full creative control over the design, content and placement – you call the shots but pay big dollars for this so naturally, it’s expected!

With PR, you can secure yourself a valuable placement with the right story angle, key messages about your product or service and positioning yourself or the business head as an expert – a thought leader – in the field. PR works by creating the initial interest, followed by trust, which ultimately leads to long-term engagement and sales.

  • Lifespan

Adverising is often mainly focused around a fixed marketing campaign, therefore limiting its lifespan. Whether a company is promoting a new product or service, this is only visible for the time that the advert is live (if we’re talking about print). Once it’s taken down, there is no record of it, but broadcast advertising often lives on online. The shelf life of an ad heavily depends on your budget, so will only run for the pre-agreed amount of time.

In PR, print articles may have a short lifespan, but in today’s digital age, the majority of coverage happens in the digital space, and almost every print story is duplicated online. All of this acts as a great reference point for future visitors.

  • Buzzwords and Content

Buzzwords are what you need to motivate people to buy. They’re typically popular words, phrases or jargon typically used in advertising to encourage consumers to act in a certain way to interact with what they are selling. In some campaigns they’re effective, in others less so, but the general sentiment of “you need this product NOW” is always at the forefront.

In PR, the coverage you receive is dependent on how well you pitch the story to the target media, but at no point does this become a sales pitch. PR starts with disseminating the message and getting your target audience talking about your company or offering.

  • Research

Market research plays a vital role in advertising. Marketers need to identify the right audience and the most effective medium through which they can best achieve their objectives and get the highest ROI by engaging with them.

Consumer demographics and market research are also a part of PR, as is knowing the target publications and key journalists who can help get your story into print or on TV. In fact, relationships and media knowledge are one of the most important aspects of public relations.

Both advertising and PR have their advantages – the approach you choose will depend on your sales objectives and the type of message you want to convey for your brand. Both are remarkable in their own way and work to complement each other, and neither should be neglected or ignored.

Feel free to get in touch with us at [email protected] if you’d like to discuss the best solution for your business.