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Advertising Vs PR. What is the difference?

Advertising and Public Relations have the capacity to go hand-in-hand when used by companies as part of their marketing strategy in their attempts to achieve their business goals. However, PR and advertising are in fact two different practices. In this article, the two disciplines will be dissected, with a look at their differences, advantages and drawbacks, and examine when organisations would look to implement them as part of their business strategy.

Advertising and Public Relations usually go hand-in-hand when used by companies as part of their marketing strategy to achieve their business goals. However, PR and advertising are in fact two different practices.

 Journolink has compared and contrasted the two disciplines. This includes taking a closer look at their differences, advantages and drawbacks, as well as when companies should implement them in their business strategy.

They do have some things n common, as they can both be used in marketing campaigns to raise a company’s visibility.  Advertising can be summed up as paid media, whereas you earn media attention organically with public relations.

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Advertising vs PR: The main differences

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What is advertising?

Advertising can be described as a paid, one-way communication designed to publicly promote or sell a product, service or idea.

Advertising encompasses many different forms and various platforms, with an ultimate goal of encouraging the target audience to purchase a product or use a particular service. TV programmes such as Mad Men show how the early days of advertising included aspects of story telling when creating and planning large-scale advertising campaigns for their clients.

While ad agencies are still in demand and can serve a purpose, in the modern digital age, ad campaigns are now social media campaigns, as well as display advertising.

What is PR?

Public relations is essentially how you share information between your business and the public, or other businesses in your industry.

It is a strategic communication process with the goal of building a mutually beneficial relationship between the organisation and the brand. Often a company will use PR to announce significant news such as a relaunch to its target audience or stakeholders to increase brand exposure and presence.

Press releases are an integral part of public relations. Releases are statements in the form of a news release or statement directed at members of the print and digital media. Promoting your content through this channel can be very effective, as consumers are more likely to trust information that is endorsed by a third party as opposed to paid advertisements.

Use JournoLink to get your stories in the press: Contact us to find out how our easy-to-use, easy-to-learn publicity software can help your business.


ad vs prThe different channels used in advertising in comparison to PR

Different forms of Advertising

When it comes to advertising methods, marketers use inbound and outbound marketing.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a strategic approach to creating engaging content that matches the needs of your audience and creates long-lasting relationships with your customers.  It is a technique that can attract potential customers through web content, social media, SEO, blogs and opt-in emails. Inbound marketing occurs when customers find your business when they are looking for a service or product in your sector. Your customers become and stay your customers because your company provides robust solutions to their problems.

Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing is a more traditional method of marketing that sends messages out to potential customers. This includes print and TV or radio ads, cold calling, seminars and trade shows. It can be more costly than inbound marketing, and the return on investment (ROI) is lower than with inbound marketing.

Outbound practices have the potential to be seen by audiences in many places, however, the cost can be quite high, with no guarantee of a profitable return. It can also be tricky to track the campaigns and the return on their investment.

Content Control

Both advertising and PR share the same goals, in that their aim is to convey a particular message to their chosen audience. The difference is who controls the message and what the content looks like.

With regard to advertising, companies ultimately have complete control over every aspect relating to the advert. That includes the message of the advert, the creative element, as well as the channels that will be used to promote the advert, essentially when and where the audience will be shown the content.

Companies are given free reign to showcase how great they are and indulge in as much self-promotion as possible with very little regulation, depending on the industry, providing said content is not offensive or harmful.

In contrast, PR is a discipline where a company that is keen to obtain media coverage has control over the channels they aim to seek coverage in but does not control the message itself. Once a story is sent to a journalist , the journalist will rewrite and have creative licence over the linguistic and visual choices of the content. With journalists having to adhere to guidelines and principles, it is their responsibility to present content in a certain manner. However, this lends more credibility to the brand obtaining media coverage, as the coverage is typically presented in an informative, unbiased manner as opposed to the more biased content associated with advertising.

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Credibility of Advertising vs PR

One of the biggest differences when comparing advertising with PR is the credibility and believability of the two promotional avenues. The credibility that a piece of media coverage brings far outweighs that of an advertisement, for a number of reasons.

Advertisement is paid media, public relations is earned media. In effect, an advert expresses that “we offer the best service in the market”, whereas PR is a third party endorsement informing the audience that “they offer the best services.”

A Nielsen study, taking a deeper look at the role of content in the consumer decision-making process concluded that PR is roughly 'three times more effective than advertising.'


Nielsen Study into PRNielsen study on the effectiveness of different content types on users

This is because, whereas advertising reflects the company’s view that a potential consumer should possess an interest in their product or service because of how wonderful it is, PR takes a more balanced approach, often engaging in effective storytelling to present a problem, or gap in the market, and how the brand covered in the publication presents a unique solution. It can come about after a media request as the journalist wants to write a story about your sector or niche.

An example of how PR can help small businesses

Take the example of Tiny Homes Holidays Ltd which offers boutique ‘Tiny Home’ cabins located on the Isle of Wight. The ethos of the company is founded on simple living in a small energy-efficient space where each home is solar-powered. They saw a gap in the market for individuals wanting to live a simple, sustainable life, away from the non-stop consumer-driven world.

By acknowledging the possibilities of good PR for their small business, they signed up to the Journolink platform and responded to media requests. As a result, they received solid press coverage including a write-up in Woman and Home magazine that generated interest and ultimately more bookings.

A journalist-written article or blog is an unbiased endorsement of your company or brand. As it contains no sales jargon, it is seen as being trustworthy and adds credibility to your product, service, and brand. A full-page advert for a product or service does not carry the same weight as a travel editor expounding on how your holiday homes are a “must-visit destination”, as you are essentially paying for endorsement rather than earning it.

Difference in cost between PR and advertising campaigns

The cost difference between the two disciplines is dependent on numerous factors, but typically, advertising costs dwarf those of PR campaigns. Advertisements are media that you pay for, for a certain time. An example would be a Facebook Ad campaign that has a set budget and timeframe allocated to it. Once the budget has gone, the ad will stop running.

If you choose to advertise in a newspaper, this would include the cost of creative design and duration, so could be very costly. Typically, most advertisements need to be shown to their intended audience quite a few times before the consumer takes notice and is influenced by the content.

In contrast, media coverage obtained through PR campaigns is typically published once, and not re-used like advertisements. However, with the help of social media, the positive effects visually compelling press coverage brings can be built upon when shared and published strategically on numerous social media platforms.

The PR can also be shared in email campaigns and in newsletters.

PR is often viewed as being complicated and also expensive for a small business, so many choose to use their budget on marketing campaigns. In reality, the reverse is true. PR is easier and cheaper than advertising, and much more effective. This is why the best businesses make full use of it as part of their overall marketing plan.

Use JournoLink to get your stories in the press

Easy-to-use, easy-to-learn publicity software built for small businesses.

For more help with your PR, contact the JournoLink team at sales@journolink.com or create a free account to showcase and grow your business.

Use JournoLink to get your stories in the press

Easy-to-use, easy-to-learn publicity software built for small businesses.

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