The Difference Between PR And Advertising

Posted on Oct 14 2013 - 10:46am by Jessica Conars


If you ask people what the difference between PR and advertising is, you will probably be surprised to find out that most people don’t make any difference between these two concepts. PR and advertising are usually considered to be exactly the same thing, or public relations are being determined as an integral part of advertising that doesn’t have a particular importance for the overall image of your company.

In fact, there are a lot of common features between PR and advertising. Some of these features are:

  • the starting point of both advertising and PR are the specific customer needs;
  • both advertising and PR are actively working with mass media and are one of the means for controlling public opinion;
  • both advertising and PR are communication activities focused on a common goal, which is to increase sales of products or services of a certain company.

PR vs Advertising

Apart from the features that we already mentioned above and that are pretty much common for both public relations and advertising, there are some serious differences between these two business techniques. It is important not to mix these two concepts.


The main difference that you will notice between advertising and PR, and which is pointed out by most experts in this field, is the function of these two concepts. Public relations are considered to be a management function, and advertising is a marketing one. So, if you want to sell some products or services of a certain company or organization, you should use this concept, because it directly affects the market position and the marketing strategies of the company. On the other hand, public relations try to “sell” the company as a whole and support management decisions.

Public relations and advertising differ also in the aspect, which is connected with their main functions. Advertising encourages people to buy a certain product or service. And PR’s main goal is modifying customers’ opinion on certain matters and building a positive attitude towards a particular company as a whole, and not towards a certain product. This means that advertisements are usually made for a specific product or service. However, public relations are a process of making the whole organization, company or brand popular and is not associated with advertising a certain product.


PR and advertising use different persuasive techniques that include methods of impact on mass media. Usually, advertising has more control over time and space, and public relations don’t have control over newspapers, radio and television. This make public relations the better choice when it comes to taking control over media, which will give you the opportunity to manage public opinion.

There are also differences between advertising and public relations when it comes to the means used by both. Usually public relation specialists use extensive techniques and approaches, which makes it a more flexible concention. Advertising uses pretty much the same means, approaches and techniques thanks to the fact that once made, it is repeated many times.

When it comes to the relationship with media, advertising’s approach is based on relations of selling and buying, and public relations’ approach is based on mutually beneficial cooperation.


Another great difference between advertising and public relations is the financial plan of each of them. Advertising is rather expensive undertaking, which is associated with constant costs. On the other hand, costs are considerably smaller when it comes to public relations, which is why it is preferred by a great number of companies nowadays.


There is also a difference between the concepts of public relations and advertising when it comes to trust. Most people subconsciously associate advertising with lying because of the suspicion that there is a great difference between the advertised and the actual value of the product advertised. Public relations manage to successfully find a solution for this problem, which once again gives you the opportunity of better management of people’s opinion.


PR is associated with long-term relationships and higher standards. However, when it comes to time and relationships, advertising is much more flexible and versatile depending on the personal needs and requirements of the company, which makes it a preferred concept when it comes to time. Public relations are also considered much more official than advertising.

Influence over different target groups

Another considerable difference between advertising and PR is that advertising is usually directed towards a specific target group, and public relations specialists make contact and communicate with many people from different target groups in the same time.

Photo Credit: Flickr/Tsahi Levent-Levi

About the Author

Jessica works at BestCleaners London as a leader of their professional team.