The difference between advertising and PR

By August 16, 2018 Stories

‘Why do I need PR when I have advertising?’

That’s the question many businesses brood over as they try to work out the best (and cheapest) way to get their organisation noticed.

A common misapprehension is that PR and advertising are mutually exclusive. This isn’t necessarily true, but they are certainly the two main components of brand exposure; Advertising builds brand awareness, PR builds brand credibility.

In the digital age, traditional methods of PR have been substituted for the fashionable (but costly) option of advertising. This is a common downfall of entrepreneur’s who think that public relations is simply writing press releases. Example: according to a 2014 study by Nielsen on the role of content in the consumer decision-making process, PR is almost 90 per cent more effective than advertising. A combination of the two, known as an Advertorial, is useful for organisations to gain publicity. Its publication is guaranteed, however the content is strictly limited to just the one publication.

The truth is that PR is a multi-dimensional tool which comes in handy when trying to achieve company exposure. It addresses social media, plans and arranges events, holds progress meetings, revaluates goals and objectives, and constantly comes up with innovative ways to help your business maximize its potential.

The difference between advertising and PR is simple enough to understand:

Advertising is paid publicity, whereas PR is earned publicity.

Whilst the latter is not as assured as the former (you are guaranteed publicity if you pay enough, but the price can be extortionate), it is definitely the more financially viable option for newly established or low-expenditure businesses.

For instance, a full-page advertisement spread can cost anywhere between £600-£6,000, depending on the publication. (To quantify it: KC Communications recently published a two-page advert for a client in a trade publication for £1,700).

It’s worth noting, too, that articles which appear in print or online are inherently more believable than adverts. There’s a kind of dubious insincerity about advertisements in the eyes of the public. Articles, on the other hand, have earned their place; they have been fact-checked and examined by a reporter and editor before publication, so you can vouch their legitimacy.

Good PR practitioners will have at their disposal a multitude of journalists and contacts to send content to. They will identify a publication suitable for the message your company is trying to get across, and send press releases or pitches for journalists and editors to peruse, which they will then, hopefully, publish. This is far more rewarding – and cheaper – than paying astronomical amounts on advertisements.

Although historically it has been seen as difficult to measure, there are new ways organisations can track and measure the success of their press coverage. Collating such evidence has typically proved a painstaking and arduous task, but there are shrewd methods of doing it in a quick, effective way.

For instance, Google has a free performance tracking tool called UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) which allows organisations to decipher how many page views the web pages have ascertained. UTM is a simple code that can be attached to any URL to generate Google Analytics data for digital campaigns to be measured simply. Google analytics measures data such as spikes in website traffic, enquiries, and website referrals, which can be attributed to press coverage.

There are various other traditional methods of performance tracking, too. AVE (Average Value Equivalent), for instance, allows organisations to estimate how much an article would have cost to publish, were it not the product of successful ‘free’ PR.

This is a good way to understand the difference between PR and advertising. If a PR practitioner has crafted an article or press release which appeals to a certain publication, it won’t cost a penny to have it printed. This is because it is solid, publishable content for the said outlet, as well as being good exposure for the organisation who distributed it (PR and journalism is a reciprocal process in this endeavour). To pay outright for publication, however, could cost thousands.

Businesses should never underestimate the importance of good PR. It can save companies fortunes, especially if it’s a refutable PR agency. There’s a reason it’s been a mainstay in the business-sphere for over a century.

This blog was written by Daniel Knight, A Huddersfield University Graduate who is getting further work experience with us.

Get in touch with us here at KC Communications if you are interested in learning how PR could help your business.