Why PR is not just an Advertising or Backlinking Exercise

28 November6 min read
Why PR is not just an Advertising or Backlinking Exercise

You know how all business comes on one page. Well here’s the ice breaker for all which is PR, short for Public Relations. People often confuse public relations with marketing and advertising. Public relations is usually associated with brand awareness and creating a buzz around the business or product. But PR can be helpful in different areas of digital marketing strategy and in many ways.

While it is understood why there may be a link between PR and advertisement, confusion can create certain frustration for PR when it comes to meeting client expectations for the public relation services. Both the PR and advertising help build brands and communicate with targeted audiences. The most basic difference between them is that advertising spaces are paid while PR results are earned through providing media information through press releases and pitches. For example, you have to buy online banner ad space, but you can pitch a story to a news outlet. There is also something called ‘owned’ media which is the content that can be created for your website, or photos and videos being produced for social media.

Definition of Public Relations

Public Relations (PR) is a strategic communication practice that uses different channels, to cultivate favourable relations for the company. Its primary goals are to disseminate important company news or events, maintain a brand image and put a positive spin on negative events to minimise their fallout. PR may occur in the form of a company press release, news conference, interviews with journalists, social media posting or other venues. Public Relations can also be called unpaid publicity earned by the companies through their goodwill, word of mouth etc.

Public Relations can often be confused with advertising or even product marketing. The three often operate alongside one another but are distinct and separate practices. Still, while working with a brand or company, there are several ways where PR professionals can glean useful insights from marketing and advertising. But it is also helpful to clarify how PR is usually distinct from those two practices. 

Let’s find out how PR is not advertising.

Public Relations are not a promotion.

Doing PR for a brand or any company is like being a cheerleader, but using a totally different set of tools and tactics in marketing or promotion. Advertising can promote the characteristics of a product or service that adds value. Since, there are no direct promotions in PR, it rather puts the context upfront or seeks to highlight the new or noteworthy things in the market. A consumer brand might make coupons or special offers available as marketing promotions, while PR would share the story behind the creator, or explain why the product is part of a new trend.

Public Relations can get you ‘media earned’.

In the PR business, earned media generally means being included or featured in certain articles written by any journalist or writer working for the publications. And advertising can be done through publications as well, but it will result in you in paying for the space or time directly. Though there is no such wall between advertisement and news, there is still a distinction between paid content and unpaid content. With respect to PR, the main difference is perceived credibility, when you appear in the editorial section, it is like a third-party endorsement as someone has been involved to dig in a bit and determined that you were worthy. 

Public Relations are more challenging to measure.

There are few sophisticated algorithmic tools in the media world that can measure the reach, number of clicks, and conversion, making the advertisement much easier and gauging the effectiveness of the money being spent. In Public relations, on the other hand, it is not as consistent, and more sophisticated tools for use come at a certain price.

Public Relations are about awareness.

In PR, while there is a focus on specific audiences it is still different from advertisement. The primary goal of the advertisement is to target consumers (or any other business) or attract different customers and make sure that they are retained always. The best combination when public relations are performed well creates a healthy environment for advertising and marketing by using the PR results for direct and commercial selling.

Public Relations guarantees perfect control over outcomes.

Paying for an advertisement or campaign secures message control and guaranteed placements, but there is no comparable control when it comes to PR. Smart and skilled public relation people come with deep experiences and can offer their smartest estimates to be expected but there is no such surety. It is still the art of persuasion over power, any third-party endorsements over promotion, and credibility over control.

Understanding public relation is essential especially when shares in the company are publicly traded to maintain the market image. Advertising and PR are different and well there is no such rocket science. But for a better explanation let’s take a look at the basic differences.

Key differences between public relations and advertising

Since the primary goal of any business is to maximise the profit and it can be achieved by increasing the sales. The firms apply many strategies, tactics, tools, plans to achieve customer attention at peak and grab the competitive position in the market that comes under promotion mix which includes advertising, direct selling, sales promotion and public relations. Though advertising and PR are part of the promotion mix, they are still different from each other. Listed below are few key differences :

  • Public relations are the practice of strategic communication which aims at building a mutually beneficial relationship between company and the public while advertising is a technique of drawing public attention through paid announcements.
  • PR is a two way communication process where the company listens and gives responses to the public. On the other hand, advertising is a monologue activity.
  • Advertising is done for promoting products or services, with an aim to induce the audience for purchasing. Conversely, public relations aims at maintaining the positive image of the company within the media.
  • The advertisements can be published or aired as one as it is paid but in case of PR, the story gets published only once.
  • Credibility is higher in case of public relations as compared to advertising because in case of advertising, consumers don’t believe facts easily knowing it's just an ad and remain sceptical. But in PR, a third party improves the credibility.
  • The placement of the ad is guaranteed in advertising, but there is no such guarantee in case of public relations.

Bottom Line

Public Relations is quite useful to those parties that want to have a positive public image. Most of the time, corporations and publicly traded companies embark on public relations. A company may possess a different public relations team or strategy for brands or products. The benefits of PR building outweigh any other link building strategies in all aspects: scalability, quality, profitability and relevance. 

The best way to promote business is to incorporate the public relations and advertising your market strategy in an integrated and well coordinated way. A company may have a different public relations team or public relations strategy for specific brands or products. Moreover, individuals such as celebrities or high net worth individuals may have private public relation teams. These teams are used to maintain a positive public image as well as handle media requests.