Advertising and PR

Advertising and PR.
Sooo . . . what are they, exactly?

Advertising and Public Relations (PR) exist to achieve the same thing.

They exist to sell. Specifically they exist to sell you.  Your brand, your product, your children, whatever it is that you want to shift, they are here to mark it, box it and get it out the door.

What is Advertising?

Advertising is promotional coverage of your brand that is paid for. It is the 200ft banana that says ‘BUY THIS NOW!”

Most likely to… say you are great, and not say anything else. Ever.

Least likely to… foster immediate trust in your audience.

Works with: Media sales teams.

Right, so what is PR?

PR is coverage of your brand that is earned. It is the 200ft banana that features in an article about people saying how great your 200ft banana is.

Most likely to . . .  get everyone else saying you are great, so you don’t have to.

Least likely to . . .  upset an editor.

Works with: Absolutely everybody.

So, now we know what Advertising and PR is, what are the key differences in their approach?

Paid vs Earned Content

Advertising: You (or your ad agency) pay the media to feature you. Pay the media more, they feature you more. Simple.

PR: PR makes the media want to feature you. For free. The media want you more. They feature you more. No money exchanges hands, except for the bar tab.

Credibility / Believability

Advertising: People know what an advert is. They know what it does. They know you are selling to them. You can’t sugar coat that. That’s advertising.

PR: People shouldn’t see good PR. They should read a good article featuring your brand, hear a credible voice singing your praises, see an interesting application of your product – and then think, “Gosh, I want that”.

Message Control

Advertising: You have complete control over the message you put into the media. Despot-style control.

PR: The media has control of the message you put into the media. So, best make sure the media like your message. It is definitely worth picking up that bar tab.

Duration of coverage

Advertising: Coverage lasts as long as your budget does.

PR: Coverage lasts as long as people find you interesting.


Advertising: You have control over the target audiences seeing your advert. If you pay for it, they will see it. If you pay a lot for it. They will see a lot of it.

PR: With PR you don’t target an audience, you infiltrate an audience. Your product isn’t the  conversation piece, it is the conversation.

So there you have it!

Advertising is controllable, paid for content that shouts about your brand in the public domain. An audience knows an ad is a sales tool and therefore is likely to hold a healthy degree of scepticism toward it. But, its message is completely under your control and it will appear where you pay for it to appear.

PR does not directly sell your brand, it creates a positive image of your brand and curates an environment where an audience is most likely to choose to invest in you. It is a soft sell that thrives on third party validation of your product – by journalists, thought leaders, magazine brands and key industry personalities.

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