By: Kate Schroeder @kschroeds7
I’ll admit it. Even as a strategic communications student, I’ve had difficulty explaining to people who ask about my major what the difference is between public relations and advertising. Going into my senior year as a strategic communications student, I have a good deal of knowledge of each industry. However, when asked this simple question I end up rambling on all the differences between PR and advertising pros,– usually leaving my non-journalist counterpart thoroughly confused and in need of an aspirin.
Looking back I wish someone had given me a simple, cut-and-dry answer to this not so simple question my freshman year at OU. I knew plenty about the world of news, but no one could seem to give me a simple answer to, “what the heck is this PR and advertising stuff I keep hearing about?”. Even though both careers are in the Scripps School of Journalism, transferring from news and information to strategic communication was like learning a new language. So for all you strategic communication newbies, let’s take it one step at a time and finally get this question straightened out!
“Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for.”
The main goal of advertising is to create ads and campaigns and place those in appropriate outlets to allow their message to build exposure. Advertisers want to impact as many people as many times as possible or specifically impact their target market depending on the product. Unlike public relations, advertising has complete creative control of the message it is promoting, but can be extremely expensive.
What advertising is trying to say: “Buy this product”.
Where advertising is paid media, public relations is earned media. A public relations specialist will take the brand and works to build the brand credibility. This is mostly done through media relations, which is working with reporters and editors to write positively about your client or brand. This can also be done through social media! Work done through public relations tends to have more credibility than advertisements, because the content was not paid for. This builds trust between your brand and the public
What public relations is trying to say: “This is important”.
What makes them similar?
The reason it is sometimes hard to explain how advertising and public relations differ is because they both share a main goal. Both help a company or product gain exposure in a positive way. Also, both avenues target a specific audience, also called a target audience with their message.