Advertising vs. Public Relations – What’s the Difference?

“Ads are the cave art of the 21st Century.” – Marshall McLuhan, Author

Young woman lying down on a couch is reading a magazine

How are ads different than public relations?

Are you skeptical of what you read in advertisements? Most consumers ignore ads or are wary of them. So much for the effectiveness of advertising! Many great products have failed to sell simply because there was no built-up excitement or market education for consumers, so expensive ads ended up being a waste of money.

Public relations is a more subtle, disciplined approach with the aim of influencing public opinion and behavior.

When you read an actual article about a product or service or see it covered on TV news as opposed to a print ad or TV commercial, you’re much more inclined to pay attention. PR brings credibility, knowledge and understanding of the product being promoted, so future advertising is more likely to succeed.

Public relations is a predictable, sustainable way to effect managed growth for your company.

It is not designed to translate into thousands of immediate direct sales. Sales often result from Three Girls’ media campaigns, but the primary goal of our campaigns is to help your company gradually build a national brand through strategic editorial coverage. Brand awareness and name recognition are critical to this process. Imagine the world of public relations as a pyramid:

Of course, pyramids are built from the BOTTOM up!

Research shows that it takes 5 to 7 impressions of a product or service before most consumers are compelled to buy non-essential items. A sustained media presence in the national press alongside content marketing (especially blogging, social media and email marketing) will help achieve this over a period of 12 to 24 months.

Public Relations vs. Advertising

Paid Space vs. “Free” Coverage

Advertising is paid space designed to sell your product directly to the consumer. Traditional ads are extremely expensive and usually not effective unless they’re extremely targeted and repeated over a long period of time. Consumers are usually wary of advertising and often ignore it.

Editorial coverage that results from PR is free and more importantly, is an editorial endorsement of your product! The credibility this brings makes PR the more valuable choice for small companies that can’t afford nationwide ad campaigns.

Total Control vs. Flexibility

Advertising makes you the boss as long as you’ve got the cash. You decide exactly what your ad says, how it will look, when and where it will run. Traditionally you pay top dollar for this control. The downside? Traditional advertising, even in small publications, is anything but cheap.

Public Relations Puts the Media in Charge

They decide size, length, word choice, format and which photos, if any, are used. You may not have layout control, but consumers pay far more attention to features and stories and put much more trust in them. Best of all, Three Girls’ media campaigns are extremely cost effective compared to traditional advertising.

Which Should You Choose?

Both advertising and public relations can be extremely effective. The most successful campaigns use both at the same time. Three Girls understands that the cost of a dual PR/Ad campaign is out of reach for many companies. For businesses with limited budgets, Three Girls recommends building your credibility and public awareness first with a strategic PR campaign, which will then help ensure the success of your future advertising.

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