The Difference Between PR and Advertising

By Nichelle Fulwani


In the world of marketing; advertising and PR are thought to be one and the same. Many businesses believe they play a similar role, achieve the same results, and can be used in lieu of one another. So what is the difference between PR and advertising exactly? The following 4 tips will answer this frequently asked question once and for all.

  1. Paid vs. Free

When advertising, a business will pay for the space required for the ad. This often turns out to be costly, depending on when and where they would like to convey the message. In PR, the agency’s role is to develop strategies that will gain their client’s free publicity.

  1. Control over messages

In advertising, you have complete control over what kind of content is being included, and this can be formulated dependent on the target audience. In PR, you don’t have as much control over the content because a lot of it is dependent on the strength of your relationship with journalists. The content ends up in their hands and they may use it in unpredictable ways. You do, however, have control over prepping your clients for interviews with the media, and how to effectively create a positive image of their business.

  1. Visual vs Editorial

Advertising means visibility. Agencies focus on getting the product in front of an audience in a creative, memorable way. PR campaigns on the other hand produce credibility for a brand, company or product. A third party will generate coverage for the brand and provide word of mouth. In PR it is essential to build strong relationships with journalists, bloggers and influencers to increase the chances of positive coverage. It is the relationship-building aspect of campaigns that determines the quality of coverage in PR.

  1. Credibility vs. visibility

In advertising, consumers tend to be skeptical about the product which means they don’t generally pay attention to the entire ad. Nevertheless, advertising is capable of raising visibility because it is building exposure to the audience. In PR, the campaigns that are created are used to build credibility. It is viewed by the audience as a third-party endorsement, and therefore becomes more reliable due to the reputation of the journalists. It allows campaigns to build trust with the audience.

These differences do not intend to prove that one is better than the other, as both advertising and PR are used for different purposes and can also be used simultaneously. Both are equally important and necessary for any company to gain exposure, brand awareness, and in creating a long-lasting impression in the audience’s mind.

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