Since public relations and advertising both work toward accomplishing the same goals for a business or organization, it can be difficult to determine the difference between the two and which is more effective. At their core, advertising and PR are tools that brands use to reach their target audience and promote their product or service. The most basic difference between the two is that advertising spots are paid for, while public relations placements are earned through media pitches and press releases. With money on the line, marketers feel immense pressure to decide where they should focus their efforts and with all due respect to Don Draper, PR is better than advertising.  

Builds Credibility

One of the most pressing downsides of advertising is the lack of authenticity. Consumers know that image, video or message was bought, and unless it’s something compelling like a Super Bowl commercial, they are unlikely to give it their full attention. Think of the last time you were watching a YouTube video or your favorite Hulu series. Do you remember the ad that played before it started or did you skip at the earliest opportunity? 

Public relations, on the other hand, provides third-party credibility in the form of a journalist, blogger or influencer. A company or organization pitches an idea, but the story itself is told by someone else. Just as you did for the advertisement, now think of the last article you read or news story you heard. Chances are it’s much easier to remember specific details since the information came from a reliable source rather than straight from a business. That’s the power of PR in action. 

Expanded Reach

When it comes to advertising, you get exactly what you paid for and nothing more. Let’s use TV commercials as an example. If a law firm pays for a 30-second ad to promote its criminal defense practice, the law firm gets a 30-second ad to promote its criminal defense practice. However, with public relations, messages and information can be delivered time and time again. 

Instead of a commercial, let’s say one of the firm’s attorneys scores an interview with a business publication about a recent case. While the message is out of the firm’s hands, that article could then be picked up by another publication, shared on social media or used in a media pitch to secure another interview. Now, instead of just one ad that was over and done with in less than a minute, the firm has generated far more exposure and reach through its PR practices. 

Establishes a Connection

One of the easiest ways to highlight the value of public relations is to think of it like a conversation between your business and members of your target audience. Take social media, for example. Your company’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram profiles allow for a direct line of communication between your brand and your consumers, establishing a connection and making them feel a personal bond to your business. 

Advertising, on the other hand, is a form of one-way communication. It’s one brand pitching its products or services to its target audience and while it is still possible to generate a response from someone, it doesn’t incite a conversation or connection the same way that public relations does. Advertising is about communicating to the masses, while PR includes more of a personal touch. 

More Bang for Your Buck

Regardless of industry, many business decisions come down to a matter of dollars and cents and for the purpose of marketing a brand or product, public relations is a much better investment than advertising. For example, placing a print ad in a business journal can be quite costly. Between spending money on the placement and valuable time on the design and copy, it’s an expensive play for an ad that will likely be ignored by many of the readers. 

However, what if your company secured a story in that same journal rather than placing an ad? Subscribers read that journal for the stories, not the advertisements. Now, there’s a real opportunity to establish a connection and generate new business leads at a fraction of the cost of advertising. That same journal article can then be shared on social media, turned into a blog post or used in a pitch to earn even more coverage for your business. 

Advertising still has its place in the marketing world, particularly when it’s used to reinforce something that has already been told through media coverage, but the power of public relations for your business can’t be understated. Our agency is rooted in the foundations of public relations, and we have taken that deep bench of experience and created a unique brand of integrated marketing that puts relationships and reputations at the forefront. If you need help fleshing out your public relations strategy or just want to bounce around some thoughts, let’s connect. We’d love to start a conversation with you about how we can create results for your business.