PR vs. Advertising

A visit with our grandparents often results in discussions of “the good ‘ole days.”  In a sense, the reverse is true when it comes to PR versus advertising.

When it comes to popularity, television news vaulted to the top over newspapers because of incidents like Watergate. Back then, television was easy, immediate, and clear, unlike reading through a lengthy article. The latter may have appeared to some like a return to doing homework.

Television news’ popularity also created a huge market for public relations. After all, getting free exposure to a new product or store opening saved thousands of dollars in advertising and who wouldn’t want that? And PR also had perceived credibility because the media reported it. Television journalists were swamped with a variety of pitches and initially, the two sides didn’t play well together.

Over time, both journalists and PR professionals realized that they shared a lot of common values. They both wanted to get information out to the public in a clear, honest, and timely manner. They both had stories to tell. More recently this attitude of collaboration became increasingly clear and critical when traditional media began feeling and acknowledging the growing challenge of social media.

PR and advertising both have their place in promotions and sales. The primary difference is that PR is free and advertising has a cost. Another is that public relations create impressions and influences people, while advertising seeks to drive actions. And yet another is that PR seeks to build relationships while advertising seeks spontaneity. Clip that coupon now!

Both recognize the value of social media and approach it in their own ways. PR may target a blogger with a large following while an advertiser will place an ad on Facebook or Google.

Today, effective companies utilize both PR and advertising to sell products and get their messages across. One can see this collaboration in other areas of an organization besides social media, including corporate communications, crisis communications, media relations, and reputation management.

This partnership between public relations and marketing is important because it brings a balance in what’s being disseminated and shared with the public. One without the other would not be as effective and should not be an “either-or” issue at most companies.

For many, the bigger question is how much to budget. PR may be free but still requires staff and support. The norm for advertising among smaller companies runs between 2% to 5% of annual revenue. Some larger retailers spend as much as 20% on advertising when they startup.

Aim for a Balanced Diet

Whatever the decision, the point is that most businesses need both PR and advertising to survive and grow. As in life, strive for a balanced diet. Get check-ups regularly. For business, this means periodically measuring the results of both your PR and marketing efforts and adjusting your “diet” as needed.

Here’s to your health!

Leave a Reply