PPR Strategies


No, public relations is not the same as advertising

No, public relations is not the same as advertising

By Sandy Dubay

If only I had a dime for every time I’ve explained that public relations is not the same as advertising. Apparently, public relations is such a confusing field that even the PRSA had trouble figuring out a definition in 2012. It took months of debating and even a public vote to decide on the definition:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Well, that’s great, but it doesn’t really explain what it is and what we do, and it certainly doesn’t differentiate itself from advertising. The two have some similar characteristics, but they are very different fields. Here are just a few differences:

Ads expire; news lives forever

When an outlet covers your news, it is typically archived online, and will live there indefinitely. Ads only survive as long as you pay for them to appear.

Location, location, location

When paying for advertising, you pay for a specific space for a specific amount of time. Public relations, on the other hand, could result in many, many stories in numerous places.


When it comes to advertising, you, the advertiser, have all the creative control. When it comes to public relations, the journalist will put their own creative spin on the story.


Which are you more likely to believe: A news report from a respected journalist stating that Ball Park Franks are the best hot dogs in the world, or an ad that says Ball Park Franks are the best hot dogs in the world? If you’re like most people, you’ll believe the reporter more than a paid advertisement.


Ads may be very flashy, repetitive, and use a lot of exclamation points. The news stories that result from public relations, on the other hand, stick the facts and are less likely to be so flashy.

The bottom line is that often times it takes a combination of both advertising and public relations to reach the goals that many business and organizations are seeking. However, businesses and organizations are often able to get more ‘bang for their buck’ with public relations.



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