By Kailynn Bowling, co-founder of ChicExecs PR & Retail Strategy Firm.
We hear the terms “public relations” and “advertising” tossed around like they’re the same thing. But when it’s time to grow your brand and increase sales, you’ll notice that PR and advertising are very different.
Public relations is all about how you spread information about your business through third parties. Whether it’s TV news, a magazine or a consumer blog, PR helps you shape public perception of your brand. Ideally, PR happens when reporters feature your brand in a glowing way — and for free!
Advertising, on the other hand, is a form of paid media. You can score paid features in magazines or even pay to show up in users’ social media. It’s a great way to get in front of thousands of people in just a few hours. Brands with big budgets largely capitalize on this.
Three Differences Between PR And Advertising
Not sure if PR or advertising is right for you? They’re separate disciplines, so consider their pros and cons for your situation. Understand these three differences to choose the right approach for your brand.
The most obvious difference between PR and advertising is the cost.
Because PR is a form of earned media, you won’t get results right away. It can take weeks of pitching to finally land a feature, which might be weeks or months away. For this reason, it’s incredibly helpful to hire a PR professional who has existing relationships with journalists and can save you the time of researching and pitching.
Fortunately, you spend very little money pursuing PR, so it’s still a cost-effective way to promote your business. Depending on the feature, PR can be more valuable than advertising. It’s credibility that you just can’t buy.
Advertising, on the other hand, immediately puts your brand in front of customers — for a price. It’s not unheard of for ad campaigns to burn through thousands of dollars a week.
This paid medium gets you results quickly through encouraging customers to buy right now. Unless you have a huge advertising budget, it’s hard to make this approach sustainable in the long term, especially if you’re a small business.
This is a huge differentiator between PR and advertising. In a nutshell, advertising is like saying, “I’m great,” while PR is having someone else say you’re great.
And the stats don’t lie here: PR can be 90% more effective than advertising. That’s because a third party is promoting your business through PR. Whether it’s a journalist or TV feature, this comes off as fairer and less biased to your customers. Since customers prefer editorial coverage over product pitches, they pay more attention to your product in a PR feature.
Without customer trust, you can’t boost brand awareness or sales. When it comes to ads, customers are automatically skeptical because you’re promoting yourself. You have too much skin in the game. So, they might ignore your ad.
To avoid this, always watch your ad copy. Focus on delivering value and answering customer pain points instead of spamming them with product features.
3. Sales Versus Awareness
Advertising is a great way to put a “buy” button in front of your audience almost immediately. If your goal is to push for more sales, advertising can get you in the black. However, you do need to make sure your audience targeting is on point.
PR isn’t about making immediate sales; this is a long-term strategy that prioritizes touch points and awareness. Sales is absolutely a byproduct of brand awareness, but it takes a while to achieve.
Combining PR And Advertising For More Coverage
Although PR and advertising are separate disciplines, you don’t have to choose between them. PR works great in tandem with advertising. On average, it takes five to seven impressions for customers to remember your product, so you need all the coverage you can get, both earned and paid.
There’s a place for both advertising and PR in your business. If you’re just starting out or have a small business, I recommend starting with PR first. It’s a long-term strategy, but it can still help you find some quick wins for free.
Once your product gains traction and you can afford to advertise, dive in. Just make sure you’re investing in paid channels that will get you the most ROI. If your audience is largely on Instagram, don’t bother with LinkedIn Ads. Go where your people are.
Advertising and PR can work together to help you achieve your goals faster. They do have some similarities, but in reality, each approach has different implications for your brand. Choose a mix that’s right for your brand and goals to dominate the market.