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The Difference Between Advertising and Public Relations

Because advertising and public relations are often incorrectly assumed to be interchangeable with one another, misinformed companies miss out on important opportunities to spread their story through PR efforts. While both create consumer awareness, generate customer leads and increase company profits, public relations has proven to be almost 90% more effective than advertising alone. The primary reason public relations is more successful is because of the level of authenticity it creates due to these four game changing differences:

Consumer mindset

A consumer’s attitude toward the message is one of the largest differentiators between advertising and public relations. Because consumers know that when they listen to an advertisement the primary purpose is to sell a product, they are automatically put on the defense and start to question the message’s believability. On the other hand, because a public relations message has gone through prescreening from the media to prove that the message is credible, the audience naturally has a more confident view of the information delivered, making it more reliable in the customer’s eyes.

Control over the end message

One aspect of public relations that intimidates businesses is the lack of control that they have over the end result. Paying for an advertisement entitles you to have complete and total control over what is said, how it is portrayed, who receives the message, and in what context the information is exposed. When you receive publicity, the media often takes the wheel and depicts your brand the light that they see fit. Depending on how you are viewed in the public sphere, this can either have an extremely positive or radically negative effect on your company’s reputation. Nevertheless, because the audience knows the message is formed from an unbiased third party, rather than by your advertising team, it is considered more legitimate.

Expiration Date

Bill Bernach, the founder of international marketing agency Doyle Dane Bernach, once said, “Nobody counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.” With this quote, Bernach nailed down one of the most important differences between advertising and public relations: no matter how many TV, radio, or print ads you pay for, it is a public relations message that is most likely to resonate with your audience in the long run and ultimately make an impact on your brand’s reputation. While an advertisement will stay in the audience’s mind for mere minutes after it is viewed, it is a PR story that will leave your viewers thinking for days, months or even years to come.

Method of Communication

A major distinction between advertising and public relations is the way the final message is formulated to address the target audience. An advertisement demands a direct call to action, such as “buy this product now,” while public relations tells a story and provides the background that explains why a product is a must-have. Even if both messages have the end goal of getting customers to “buy this product now,” through public relations storytelling, companies are able to build their brands and allow customers to more personally get to know them. This is extremely important because meaningful relationships are what build loyal customers and sets your company up for long-term success.

When deciding whether to include advertising or public relations into your budget, it is important to keep in mind how important your brand’s credibility is to the overall success of your company. Serendipit Consulting utilizes experts in the public relations field to develop brand authenticity, loyal customers and rising profits for companies around the country. Click here to learn more about public relations and see examples of cases that have worked.

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