PR or Advertising – What’s the difference?

The roles of Advertising and Public Relations are often confused. This can mean that Advertising is chosen when PR should have been or vice versa.  This can lead to unmet expectations and can be very frustrating both for the client and agency.
To try and clear up some of this confusion, I wanted to talk to you about when you should use PR and when you should Advertise.
The answer, simply, is that it depends on your objective(s), and sometimes you need both.

advertising, public relationsThe main difference between PR and Advertising is how your message is controlled.  When you Advertise, you pay for what your ad says and how you want it to look.  You also choose whether the medium is broadcast (radio & TV), on-line, newspaper, magazine, billboards, bus/metro cards etc.   Simply put, you control everything except whether your target decides to buy your brand or not.

In the case of PR, you also control your message by what you have written in your press release; however, you can’t control what the media decides to write about or even if they’ll write anything at all. If it looks too commercial or like a paid for advertorial – editors will perceive it as you, the client, looking for free advertising and your brand won’t be written about.  At Schrenk PR, we specialize in taking a brand’s message and creating a press release that’s angled to look like it belongs in the particular magazine or newspaper that we’re talking with, or will be of interest to a particular TV/Radio program or blogger.
To decide what’s best for your brand, you have to think about what you want to achieve and what the comparative costs will be.  Do you want to build brand awareness/image and credibility to increase purchase intention, or do you want to build frequency to increase in-store traffic?  Once you’ve decided what your objective is, you need to look at costs.
With advertising you gain frequency of message for your brand.  With enough money you can dominate a medium with commercials and/or ads that will drive your message to your target consumer and they will buy your brand.  You have to remember though that ads are often perceived as self-serving, so your message is very important for your ad campaign to be effective.
On the other hand, PR gives the credibility of a third-party endorsement, the media.  This means that a particular Magazine/Blogger/Newspaperblog post 4 b or Radio/TV interviewer, is talking/writing about your brand on their own initiative, and that is an enormously powerful tool in shaping public opinion.  Again, one article here and another article there, or a few bloggers writing about your brand won’t do much to build an image or create awareness for your brand.  At Schrenk PR we know how to execute a comprehensive PR campaign that will generate the articles, blog posts and/or TV & radio interviews to make it look like the various medias are endorsing your brand.  This is critical when building brand image, awareness and purchase intention.
PR gives your brand message credibility and Advertising gives your brand frequency of message.
For small companies, PR is the better choice to communicate to a specific target audience.  For larger companies with a sufficient budget, a combination of Advertising and PR will ensure that your brand message is both credible and remembered.
As Advertising Age says, PR is the nail and Advertising is the hammer!