Discover the difference between public relations and advertising

Advertising media release PR Public Relations

I’m writing about this topic today because I believe there is some confusion in the world of small business about public relations and advertising.

Many times I’ve read on forums how a small business believes that sending a press release to the media is a great way to promote their product or service to a target audience free of charge.  WRONG!  This misplaced believe highlights the confusion between publicity and advertising and the following definitions will help to clear up any misunderstanding:-

Advertising is a paid form of mass communication which primarily uses print or broadcast media (ie tv or radio) to reach its target audience.  The form of public relations that is most closely related to advertising is publicity which, of course, is only one aspect of public relations.  Unlike publicity, advertising allows an organisation to control the content of the advertisement, where it will be placed and how often it will appear.

Publicity is information from an outside source (often provided in the form of a media release) that is used by the media because the information has news value and will be of interest to the target audience.  It is an uncontrolled method of placing messages in the media because the source does not pay the media for placement.

Publicity is widely regarded as being more cost effective and therefore more credible because the message appears in a news context, giving it the effect of third party endorsement.  However, bear in mind that publicity is not necessarily something you seek: public relations can also be about keeping things out of the media and away from public knowledge.  This is not necessarily because there is something to hide: other reasons such as timing, confidentiality, resources, etc may all come into it.

To find out which approach is right for your business, contact me

I’ll be blogging again soon about the relationship between public relations and marketing – the differences can be difficult to grasp since the activities sometimes overlap.

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