Comparing Advertising and Public Relations


Comparing - Advertising - Public Relations




Comparing Advertising and Public Relations

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All entrepreneurs have a common goal: To see that their product, whether it takes the form of hard goods, a service, or an idea, gets to the end user where it is purchased. Buyers are constantly comparing products and services through various means including advertising and public relations efforts put forth by the vendor. By comparing advertising and public relations we see that while inter-twined, they are indeed different and serve distinct purposes.

Note: Some products are never purchased per se (e.g., stop smoking education), but do not stop reading; we still need to get them to the end user, so the information still applies.

This process of getting the product to the user and all the decisions made to facilitate this movement is called Marketing. "Marketing" means focusing all efforts having to do with Production, Pricing, Promoting, and Placing the product on people - selected groups called target markets - rather than the product itself. (By the way, did you recognize the "4P's" of marketing in the last sentence?)

Promotion is the arm of marketing that lets you communicate with people. The common term these days is "Marketing Communications". When we plan how to promote a product, we have the following "tools" to work with:

  • Advertising

  • Sales Promotion (including Collateral Materials)

  • Public Relations

  • Personal Selling

  • Direct Marketing

Comparing Advertising and Public Relations

Two powerful tools Advertising and Public Relations see how they compare.

Let's start with a simple chart. Details follow:


Public Relations

Space or time in the mass media must be paid for. Coverage in mass media, if any, is not paid for.
The message you put out is determined by you. Interpretation of the message is in the hands of the media.
Timing of the message is controlled by you. Timing of the message is in the hands of the media.
Uses the mass media. Efforts may use mass media or any of several more personal venues (e.g., speaking engagements, community involvement, team or program sponsorships, lobbying, facilities tours, etc.)
One-way communication - using the mass media does not allow for receiving feedback. Two-way communication - the company should be listening as well as "talking" and the various P.R. venues (see above) often provide for immediate feedback.
Message sponsor is identified. Message sponsor not overtly identified.
The intention of most messages is to inform, persuade, or remind about a product - usually with the intention of making a sale. The intention of public relations efforts is often to create good will, to keep the company and/or product in front of the public, or to "humanize" a company so the public relates to its people or reputation rather than viewing the company as a non-personal "It".
The public may view the message as "commercial" because the public recognizes advertising as an attempt to persuade or, in some cases, "manipulate" them. The public often sees public relations messages that have been covered by the media as "news" and therefore, regard it as more neutral or believable.
Very powerful at creating image. Can also create image, but can sometimes stray from how it was originally intended.
Writing style is usually persuasive, can be very creative, often taking a conversational tone - may even be grammatically incorrect. Writing style relies heavily on journalism talents - any persuasion is artfully inserted in the fact-based content - and most press releases follow an "inverted pyramid" style of writing.

A Few Additional Points

Public Relations was at one time considered a "different department" than Marketing. It was and still is used to "manage" people's opinions about a firm and its activities. It was and still is used to "manage" crises that may confront a firm. But firms now realize (as some always did) that P.R. is a forceful promotional tool that can and should be coordinated with any Personal Selling, Advertising, or Sales Promotion strategies.

This "Integrated Marketing" approach has gained popularity - especially in the '90's when consumers demand social responsibility, two-way communication, and personalized service from businesses in addition to basic product information.

Many feel advertising has become less effective because of message saturation, and a certain wariness - some would say cynicism - among consumers, particularly young ones. As a result, more and more companies have turned to increasing public awareness and loyalty by supporting consumers' interests. In fact, public relations principles now often overlay entire marketing strategies.

But one important note: Public Relations is a very visible expression of corporate vision and culture. It is not a theme or a slogan that changes with the advertising agency or at the whim of a single person. It is a management function and a statement of corporate values and beliefs.

If you say you want to preserve the environment, your actions should support that - even off the job. If you are good at creating an image for your company, it will stick in consumers' minds for a long time. You can not say you are a "Family First" company and then not offer maternity leave to employees (internal P.R.) and sponsor Club Med Singles Cruises (external P.R.)

Your advertising will also take on an identity, if done correctly. Again, what the consumer sees has to match the consumer's experiences. All the color, humor, music, personality, and award-winning writing in the world will not work if the consumer does not like the product or if the razzle-dazzle takes them to a sedate, old-fashioned store.

Both Advertising and Public Relations require some expertise. Do-it-yourself work can be thrifty, but if you have a lot at stake - like your company's image or your bottom line - follow Ann Landers' time-tested advice: "Get professional help."

(Based on an article by Vicki Hudson, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, Grand Rapids, MI, 1/99)



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Comparing Advertising and Public Relations