How is PR Different from Advertising?

People often confuse public relations with advertising or use the terms interchangeably. While both help build brands and communicate with target audiences, the most basic difference is that advertising space is paid, while PR placements are earned through providing the media with newsworthy information.


Advertising is a method of persuading a target audience into buying a product or service, and is usually accomplished through television, print, online/social media, posters, or billboards. Within the advertising industry you can work on the creative side, developing concepts and artwork, or on the management side, communicating with clients to reach their ad goals.

Public Relations

While advertising is more geared towards pushing sales, PR focuses more on maintaining a good relationship of the company or organization in the media and its target audiences. Media relations is one of the strategies PR teams use to help companies reach their communications goals. As a part of it, we write press releases, build relationships with the media, inform them of client news, speak about clients at public forums and keep record of when they are mentioned in the press. We also act as a representative for them in public statements or comments.

If we explore some of the factors that differentiate these two avenues, there are four major ones:

  1. Purpose

Advertisements are geared towards a specific target market to generate sales and focus more on promotion of the product or service rather than building a positive reputation. In contrast, the driving force behind a successful PR campaign revolves around building a reputation that consumers trust and respect.

  1. Goals

With advertising, there is a short-term goal in mind, such as pushing a new product or promoting holiday shopping deals. PR pros, on the other hand, are focused on sustainability and the long-term reputation of the company.

  1. Control

When buying an ad placement, the client decides how the ad will look, what it will say, where it will be placed, when it will run and for how long. Ad exposure is largely dependent on your budget. When it comes to PR, you have much less control over these factors. We are responsible for strategically providing the information to the media, however they control how it’s present and whether it even makes it to the public eye.

  1. Credibility

Since whomever pays for the ad dictates what it says and who it reaches, advertising is widely known to be less credible since it follows a direct pay-to-placement model. In PR, however, there is a third party involved—the media—and is thus considered to be far more credible.

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at Mar 9, 2023

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