PR vs Advertising: Unblurring the lines


As I have made clear in recent blogs, I feel that it is imperative that the PR industry not only reflect on its reputation but that it take swift action to better promote itself.

The need to define exactly what PR is and the benefits of public relations is highlighted by the increasingly blurred lines between advertising, marketing and PR. With smaller agencies diversifying to attract business and a lack of general awareness, there is often little difference between the three to the business community – except that advertising is seen as a safe bet.

Dispelling the myth of advertising

Guarantees are rare in PR, but advertising has always relied on money to secure coverage. With the global economic market taking an upturn, advertising budgets are already rising rapidly as companies seek quick exposure for their brand and products.

Yet, advertising is suffering in the same way as PR. The advent of digital media, which caught both industries off-guard, has left advertising without accurate measurement systems that support ROI. Digital advertising firm Quantcast found that up to 1.8 trillion ads in 2012 were paid for but were not actually seen.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau currently defines a viewable display impression as an ad where at least 50% of it loads on to a page and is displayed for one second. Yet, this is about as much use as a publication’s circulation or readership figures – just because it has a large potential audience it doesn’t mean people actually engaged with the ad or story.

No campaign left behind

Yet, despite the increasing shortfall on promises from the advertising industry, businesses and brands are happy to finance projects that can be several times the average PR budget.

If the PR industry is able to put forward a reasoned case, clearly defining its practices and advantages over marketing and advertising, then a wealth of new funds and possibilities could be accessed. However, most importantly, potential clients would better understand the options available to them and make an informed decision on whether PR or advertising, or both, is best for them.

That is the goal that the industry should be striving towards and PR should no longer be the black sheep of the communications family.


One thought on “PR vs Advertising: Unblurring the lines

  1. A good plea for the need to assert what ‘PR is and also distinguish between the two disciplines.
    Advertising has always gained over PR in terms of claiming to offer a ‘guarantee’ – yet this is a false promise.
    Communications consists of 3 dimensions:
    Outputs – what you put out
    Outcome – the immediate impact of your output
    Outgrowths – subsequent actions as a result of your outcomes.

    Advertising has always done a better job for providing data on its outputs but is questioinable if this is the same as a achieving outcomes and outgrowths.
    The way forward – as I outline in #PRredefined – – is for PR to assume the role of managing Brand Character in corporate listening and influencing while marketing/advertising to fight over the task of achieving specific, measurable tasks ‘bottoms on seats’ tasks.
    Be good if you – and others – shared your insights on

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