How is Advertising different from Public Relations

Public Relations and Advertising are two major tools for promoting products and services offered by the company. Advertising is a form of communication used by a company to convince prospective customers to choose their product over others. Public Relations is all about building and maintaining good relations with various stakeholders, by gaining positive publicity.

Both advertising and PR help in increasing sales. PR helps create a relationship between a commercial company and its customers who are more likely to choose the products from a company which has a good reputation.

PR and advertising have completely different roles for a company, which are important to understand to help reach the target market and achieve business objectives. Advertising creates paid announcements promoted through varied types of platforms including online, print, TV, out-of-home and radio. PR works better for building a connection with target audience and promoting key messages.

A company has control over the content of their advertisement including the channels where it should be seen. On the contrary, the PR professional has less control of coverage in the media. Once a story idea is sent to a journalist they have control over it. They choose to change the story idea or not publish it at all. However, one advantage of PR is that a story idea can be sent to a number of journalists who then decide to publish the story in different ways. This turns to be more effective at reinforcing the message.

PR provides information and newsworthy stories to media so they can write a piece about the respective product or business, if they chose to. PR can be very powerful in helping shape public opinion. Hence, Advertising and PR both are tools that help in conveying a message to a company’s target audience in different ways. PR professionals can communicate the message by a variety of channels. The key to reaching a target audience is to place the message at the platform the target audience is likely to use. This could be an article in a company newsletter, an email to clients, a blog post, a tweet, an article through media and various other channels. This means that PR may be more effective than advertising because it can help a business reach their target audience through a variety of mediums.

What is the primary motive of a business? Profit maximisation which can only be achieved by increasing sales. Each company applies various strategies, tactics, tools, plans to gain maximum customer attention and to grab a competitive position in the market, which comes through a mix of promotional measures. There could be four aspects of promotion, which are advertising, direct sales, promotional marketing, and public relations.

The public reacts very differently to an advertisement creative than to a newspapers or magazine article, online communication or a TV report. While looking at an advertisement, people know very well that the information that has been communicated through that is meant to serve a purpose and hence is perceived with a certain degree of skepticism. People know that the purpose of a creative is to persuade them to buy a particular product or service and the information given may not be so true after all.

When a news about a new product or service is communicated through a third party, for example a newspaper or magazine, it is perceived as informative and worthy of their attention. Hence there is more credibility attached to PR campaigns. These often accompany marketing campaigns. And are an integral part of advertising strategy.

Hence, advertising and PR both are important components for promoting a company or product, although their degree of effectiveness/ impact varies.

Ritu Bararia
Ritu is a Corporate Communications leader, Mentor, Author, Public Relations Evangelist, Thought leader, Advisor. She has nearly two decades of working experience having spearheaded Communications, PR and Corporate Affairs with corporate brands such as Kingfisher Airlines, The Park Hotels, Bird Group.

She quit her corporate career in the beginning of 2018 to try her hand at various related things within communications space. She turned into a published author in 2020 with her maiden book ‘Little Joys of Communication’.

Currently Ritu is Senior Director at SCoRe and, Executive Director Communicators Guild – India (CGI).

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