What Are the Similarities & Differences Between Advertising & Public Relations? (2023)

By Chron Contributor Updated February 09, 2021

(Video) PUBLIC RELATIONS vs. Advertising vs.Marketing

Advertising involves paying for space in publications or airtime, then using that opportunity to deliver a message directly to consumers. Public relations covers a wide range of tactics, usually involving providing information to independent media sources in the hope of gaining favorable coverage. While both techniques have similarities, there are several key differences between advertising and PR.

(Video) Difference Between Public Relations and Advertising

Similarities Between Advertising and PR

Public relations and advertising are similar in concept: both are designed to raise awareness of a company or product in a positive manner. Another similarity is that in both cases the company will often target its message toward a particular audience. This could be people living in a particular location; people of a particular age, gender or social background; or people with particular interests or hobbies.

Costs Related to Each

Advertising has a fixed cost, usually based on a combination of the audience that will be exposed to the advertisement or commercial, and the demographics of the audience. An advertising medium perceived to have an audience with more disposable income will often be more expensive to use on a per-audience member basis.

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Public relations does not have fixed costs, meaning the company cannot guarantee that paying a certain amount will achieve a specific result. However, it is also possible that a company could wind up getting coverage that would have cost far more in advertising than it spent in public relations costs.

Different Levels of Control

Advertising gives the company almost complete control of the message, subject only to any regulations or policies that restrict the content of commercials and ads, explains Marshall Communications. Public relations gives much more limited control and attempts to get publicity can even backfire if they lead to negative coverage.

(Video) What's the difference between advertising and PR?

Credibility of These Marketing Tools

Public relations-based publicity is usually more credible with an audience as it comes via independent media, according to public relations consulting company Publicize. Advertising often appears less credible because viewers, readers and listeners are aware if comes from an unbiased source.

Brand vs. Product

Public relations involves a mix of promoting specific products, services and events, and promoting the overall brand of an organization, which is an ongoing task. Individual advertisements are sometimes based on a brand but are more often based on a specific promotional message such as a price cut or the launch of a new product.

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Proactive vs. Reactive

Public relations contains a mixture of proactive publicity, meaning the company sets out to promote a message, and reactive publicity, meaning it reacts to events such as a scandal, or gives a view to a journalist writing a story that doesn't stem from the company's own publicity. Advertising occasionally involves reacting to events, such as a product recall, but is more commonly a proactive tool.


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