You are here

Public Relations vs. Advertising

People often believe public relations and advertising are interchangeable, however this notion couldn’t be more incorrect. The two are very different, as advertising agencies are tasked with blatant product promotion, while public relations firms have more subtle ways of influencing customer opinion and behavior.

Public relations and advertising both have the ultimate goal of raising positive awareness of a product, service, or company, but they go about it in very different manners. Public relations campaigns are designed to tell a story, while advertising campaigns are created to sell a specific product or service.

Importance of Quality PR

In this age where social media generates a constant conversation between brands and consumers, companies can no longer rely on traditional advertising methods to send one set message down from the top. These days trust is built through constant and consistent open and honest communication. Companies need a strong PR strategy to maintain a positive reputation.

Public relations firms, such as, are tasked with engaging customers. Instead of directly promoting a product with a clear call to action ─ as done in traditional advertising ─ a PR campaign focuses more on the impact a product can have on a person’s life. While it may not result in an immediate buy, it builds a relationship between the customer and the client over time, resulting in deeper brand loyalty and ultimately more money spent.

Communication is Key

Advertising agencies focus on product presentation, while public relations firms concentrate on maintaining the conversation between companies and their customers. Additionally, PR messaging comes from a third-party, which is viewed as more credible than advertisements directly from a company itself.

When a person sees an advertisement ─ whether on television, in a magazine, on a billboard, etc. ─ they know the company itself is directly trying to sell them something. One specific message about the product is delivered to everyone, whether or not it’s actually relative to their lives. Adding this to the knowledge that the benefits of the product or service are being touted by the company itself results in a lack of trust.

Conversely, when a PR approach such as newsletters, magazine articles, press releases, or social media posts is used to enlighten customers on new products and services, they’re more likely to pay attention, as it simply provides the opportunity to learn and make an informed decision. PR creates a positive image for a product or service without pressuring a person to purchase it, putting them in the driver’s seat, which is ultimately the most effective strategy. Moreover, these messages have a stronger impact when coming from a third-party as opposed to the company itself.

Impact of Bad PR

Bad PR has a negative impact on a company’s reputation and its customer relationships. Negatively can be detrimental to a company, without the right team in place to combat it. While all negative situations don’t necessarily need to be addressed, it’s important to have a PR strategy in place as a guideline for proper handling.

Similarly, if a company opts to forego all PR acts, it may get lost in the mix and be passed over by customers. Electing to do without PR comes with the risk of not being able to establish proper relationships with customers and build essential brand loyalty.

Bad PR, or no PR, is like having an empty online profile, or worse, a profile anyone can fill out with whatever they want.

The value of quality PR is priceless. Behind every successful, long-lasting company is a strong PR team working hard to subtly influence customer opinion.