As a St. Louis Public Relations professional, I am often asked by business owners, “What are the differences between PR and advertising?”
Comparing the publicity aspect with a typical ad campaign, the main difference is that with advertising you, the client or business owner control the message.
This differs from publicity where the newspaper, magazine or medium actually controls the message.
For example, businesses running ad campaigns can decide when they want their ad to run, how big they want it, and what copy or words go into the advertisement.
In an ad campaign you can target small publications or large ones, television stations, radio stations, billboards and an entire host of possible advertising vehicles. You simply choose the one that best fits your objectives, your audience, and your budget.
There is no filter in advertising. Your audience gets your message directly, exactly the way you created it.
Publicity differs in that you are sending news releases and other materials to editors and producers in hopes of generating stories about your cause or business.
You have no control if an editor will run your news items, or when they will run it, or how it will be used.
An editor may wish to do an article about your company but decide to hold onto the story information until a later date.
They may wish to use your news as part of a special section, run it in conjunction with other companies in your specific area, or use you as a resource for a round-up type article on a particular topic where a variety of executives are interviewed.
The editor may also choose not to discuss the same key points you outlined in your news release. They make take the story in an entirely different direction.
Experienced business owners and public relations practitioners understand the nuances between publicity and advertising. They realize the final message may differ from its original intent when an article is published.
For others, understanding the differences between advertising and public relations can help you determine separate messaging strategies. It can make both your ad campaign and your public relations campaign a lot more effective.