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The REAL Difference Between PR and Advertising

By Celeste Paylor-

Often times, many individuals struggle to define the difference between advertising and public relations. With very similar functions, both provide an effective way to promote the next big thing. However, it’s important to understand the difference between the two as you make promotional decisions.

A Forbes article I read said it best, “Advertising is paid media, public relations is earned media”. So, what is the big deal of paid versus earned media? I have a one-worded answer for you, credibility. That’s right, credibility: the quality of being believed or accepted as true, real or honest. Anyone can build a message, craft an ad and buy media placement for a specific audience, but how impactful is it? Who actually believes you? If you are able to convince a reporter or editor to write and publish your story, your credibility goes up because you now have a third party backing you!

Let’s put this into perspective! Let’s say you were on the fence on whether to buy XYZ electronic product online, what’s going to help you make your decision quicker, an ad or peer reviews? Peer reviews, right? That’s because you’d believe your peers over what ABC electronic company has to say about XYZ electronic product. Peer reviews are a great metaphor of what public relations is and can do for you.

Although public relations is an effective, inexpensive tool to use for your promotional efforts, advertising is just as important. Advertising provides you an opportunity to “shine” and convey a message to the audience about xyz product that will convince them to listen to what you have to say. Advertising is guaranteed exposure that gets any potential consumer thinking, “hmmm, that sounds interesting”. Once you open the door (or get the customer interested), all you have to do is walk in!

Advertising and public relations require strategy. Don’t be afraid to do a little research, seek advice and allow yourself to really make a name for yourself (or product). Now that you understand the difference, be sure to use it to your advantage.


“If you don't tell your story, someone else will.” – Unknown


- Celeste is a PR intern with TWENTY28 LLC.

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