Heyday Marketing | PR vs. Advertising: What’s the difference?
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Heyday Marketing | PR vs. Advertising: What’s the difference?

PR vs. Advertising: What’s the difference?

Before you develop a marketing strategy, you need to make sure you have your basic terms straight. Public relations and advertising, though overlapping in some ways, are two different things. Working out PR vs advertising is essential to make sure your image and message come across correctly.

Some people get a little confused when it comes to PR vs advertising because both are all about getting out a specific message and boosting your image. We will get to the exact differences and similarities below, but for now, we need to understand that a solid marketing strategy depends on both PR and advertising but keeps PR vs advertising separate for sound reasons. 

We all know that building an image and a brand is essential for doing business in these times. Online strategies rely on brand image and a coherent business message. Once you have begun to build a brand image and get a message out, maintaining these things becomes just as important. This is where PR vs advertising becomes crucial. 

 What is the difference between PR vs advertising? What are the features of advertising? And what are the features of PR? And how do you maintain PR vs advertising to create success in today’s market? This guide will give you what you need to know about PR vs advertising. 

What is advertising?

In the most basic terms, advertising consists of the practices and techniques of bringing products, services, or even opinions to public notice with the purpose of persuading people to buy or agree with these ideas. 

The types of advertising we are concerned with have to do with persuading people to buy a product or service. Promoting your business using specific techniques and practices of persuasion is the heart of advertising. 

Advertising at its best finds strategies of persuasion that lock into ideas and beliefs that people already hold and associate your product or service with those beliefs and ideas. For example, if you are in the business of ecological-friendly products, you would formulate an advertising strategy that links your product to ideas of a healthy planet. Your customer base would associate a healthy planet with your product or service.  

What is PR?

Public relations, or PR, on the other hand, is the practice of getting out and managing specific types of messages about your business or organization. PR is also employed by individuals who have an interest in influencing public opinions such as political candidates or even people involved in advocacy. 

PR is designed to influence public perceptions and views of a product, service, or individual. For example, you may require a PR strategy to manage public perceptions of your product or service that have been misrepresented by another party. PR is also used to develop and influence public ideas that are beneficial to your business. 

Key Differences Between Advertising and Public Relations

Advertising is a way of drawing public attention to products and services. Public relations is a way of doing strategic communication that seeks to build relationships. While these practices overlap in some ways, they differ in key areas. 

Paid vs. free

The forms of communication used in advertising are most often paid. While there are some ways of doing free advertising, generally you have to pay to have your messages and forms of persuasion displayed in some form. All the various media—TV, radio, and internet—involve a paid relationship between the advertiser and the medium that hosts the advertisement. This is disclosed to the public. You have probably seen ads that contain either a spoken or written disclaimer that states “this is a paid advertisement. 

PR, on the other hand, is a set of techniques whereby you engage the public in such a way that the message is carried and does not necessarily involve a paid relationship between the media and the person or organization that is speaking.  

Message Control

The goal of advertising is to express a persuasive message that convinces customers that your product or service is the right one for them. The message for advertising is a one-way process. Advertising involves the creation of text, image, and sound in such a way that it can be placed in various media to be received by potential customers. Good advertising is convincing. It offers people images and ideas that connect to the things they want and need. 

PR, on the other hand, is a dialogue. It is a multi-channel form of message, and its goal is message control. PR involves engaging the public or specific groups of people in such a way that you can clarify or modify what you are trying to convey. In the case of PR, you do more than just convey ideas. You also listen to the response of the public or target audiences. Ultimately, PR is designed to create a positive image for your company or brand by engaging in a two-way dialogue with the customers, the public, or the community.   

Target Audiences

While advertising does aim at target audiences with the help of processes like market research, the audience for advertising is really just about anyone. While you definitely want your advertising to reach a specific demographic, you also need your advertising to reach a much wider audience. Advertising should be focused enough to reach a target audience, while broad enough to pull in people who may not fit your specific demographic. 

PR relies on a target audience. Since PR is primarily focused on building a reputation, PR targets a specific demographic, but it also focuses on groups such as key stakeholders (legislators, event sponsors, employees, and community partners, for example). These are the target audiences that have tremendous influence and can lend credibility to your brand. The audiences are generally not paid. If your PR is effective, and you gain the approval of these audiences, you have public credibility that is beyond what can be bought. This is one reason PR is so important. 


We mention credibility above, but it is important to remember that this functions differently for advertising and PR. Consumers know that advertising is not necessarily credible. They understand that brands make claims about their products in advertising campaigns that are not genuinely credible. No one really believes they will find happiness by buying something. The goal of advertising is to convince people that, though their understanding of advertising is correct, they will nevertheless benefit from buying your product or service. 

PR absolutely has to build credibility. In some ways, building credibility is the main goal of PR. While your advertising does need to remain above board with the kinds of claims you make, PR must establish a clear line of credibility with specific groups and with the public more generally. PR reaches out to third-party audiences, while advertising reaches out to all audiences. By engaging in dialogue with third-party audiences like trade groups, regulatory bodies, legislators, and experts in certain fields, PR makes it possible to elevate the voices of these third parties as endorsements of your credibility. Credibility is essential for building a successful brand. 

Duration of the Coverage

When you pay for an advertisement, it generally lasts as long as you continue to pay for it. The duration of coverage is only the time you pay to run the ad. 

PR can, and often does, create public discussions that last indefinitely. While this is not usually the case, the duration of coverage for PR is how long people continue to talk about it. When a PR message is put to the public, the goal is to stimulate discussion beyond the initial message. A press release, which is a mainstay of PR strategy, can circulate well beyond the initial release. Depending on the type of message, there is no finite duration of coverage for PR.


Proactive vs. Reactive

Advertising is exclusively proactive. You create advertising specifically to actively engage a target audience. Because advertising is a one-way form of communication, it is by its nature a proactive form of communication. This is why there is so much riding on effective advertising. No one is asking for your message. You are asserting it into the market, and for this reason, you need to make sure the message is on point. 

PR is both proactive and reactive. PR campaigns frequently include proactive messaging. The press release mentioned above is a good example of a proactive PR strategy. In this case, your goal is to get ahead of the discussion by outlining the main ideas you need the public to focus on. 

PR is also reactive. In fact, it is frequently the case that a PR campaign is launched in order to counter something negative. PR is used to modify ideas and messages that are not in the interest of your product or service. PR strategies are deployed as a reactive strategy to change public perceptions when the public has come to embrace ideas or opinions that are not in your interest. 

Which is better for you? PR or Advertising

When people start a company they are faced with the question of which is more important: PR or advertising. As you can see, there are some stark differences between them. 

In the case of advertising, and marketing in general, the primary goal is to promote products or services to a target audience. While you also want to reach beyond a target audience, the primary objective of advertising is to determine who you are marketing to and direct your message to that group. 

Advertising and marketing can be based on data analysis, and the success of advertising can be measured in terms of things like your overall return on investment (ROI). The basic drive behind advertising is to improve your bottom line: profits. 

Advertising is primarily about brand awareness. PR, on the other hand, is primarily geared toward brand reputation. You may think of it like this: advertising creates the story you want to tell about your product or service. PR is about the story behind that story. It provides a context for your business and your brand so that the public can get a better understanding of what your company is about. 

Like the example above of a green business. Your advertising tells people that your product or service is ecologically sound. PR explains why you choose to focus on ecologically sound products and services. 

The basic difference between advertising and PR is brand awareness and brand reputation. In making the decision which is better for your business, the decision comes down to which process you need. If you are a new business, you may need to focus more on building brand awareness. If you have been around for a while, perhaps you want to focus on brand reputation. 

The short answer is that you need both advertising and PR. While small businesses may not be able to afford both strategies, everyone should be aware that both advertising and PR will become essential to your continued success. You need to build brand awareness with advertising. You also need to build a brand reputation with solid PR. 

As you can see, advertising and PR are both important to the continued success of your business. You need to get your product or service noticed with effective advertising and you need great PR to build a solid reputation around your brand. 

HeyDay Marketing Services provides sound PR strategies that can build a great reputation for your business. HeyDay Marketing Services has the professional expertise and experience to create proactive messaging that achieves the kind of influence you need to build your business as a leader in your area. 

Public relations is one of the strongest ways to build a reputation for your business in traditional and digital media, both online and offline.

It is an investment that will yield a high ROI if you implement a strategy that helps you reach your target audience at the optimal time.

So, how do you develop a winning strategy? By working with trusted professionals instead of trying to DIY and piecemeal your plan together.

HeyDay Marketing Services offers several packages for you to find the public relations campaign that works for your company. We understand that one size does not fit all. For sound public relations strategies that work, allow HeyDay Marketing Services to take over the public relations for your business.

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