The Line Between PR and Advertising

We use public relations and advertising to promote products and services. However, should you use advertising as part of your PR strategy? Where do you draw the line between earned and paid media, PR and advertising? 

Advertising is defined as paid media because you buy an advertisement space online, on the radio, television, a billboard, and in a magazine or newspaper – the main channels you use to promote your product or service. It is a fine-tuned mechanism for persuading people to purchase your product or service. 

PR uses the same channels as a vehicle to raise awareness of your brand, product or service through press releases, human interest stories, and thought leadership articles and blogs. It aims to connect with your target audiences at a deeper level, delivering your key messages for free – this is earned media. 

It is fair to say that paid and earned media have limitations in today’s crowded media spaces where everyone competes for your attention. As such, there are times when it may be necessary to deploy a combined approach to get your product or service noticed. Should we draw the line of distinction between traditional PR – where you earn the right to be in a publication because of the brilliance of your story and expertise – and advertising? 

If you need your product or service promoted in a specific place, for example, in a magazine, using particular words, then pay for advertising. We do this as part of PR campaigns. Many PR agencies argue that this approach is separate from PR; therefore, you should refrain from paying for anything. However, the bottom line is if it is appropriate for you and your product or service, go for it! 

Suppose you launched a new service aimed at businesses in your area. You may write an article to announce the launch of the service to catch people’s attention and ignite interest. The piece might be about new technology or your company’s offerings. You would talk about the founder and the reasons behind your unique service. Now, that is a genuine news item, a PR piece. 

If you plan to move at a steady pace and adopt a more subtle approach, then use earned media that includes PR thought leadership pieces with links to your company’s website, which is very effective during a launch. Bear in mind that you are gifting knowledge. So, whatever you write about must be engaging, or it will not be published. 

However, it does not stop there. Now that you have fired up people’s interests, you must keep that fire burning. Here is where you have a difference. If you want to keep your brand name fresh in people’s minds and tell everyone about what your company does, it makes sense to set aside a budget for advertising. 

There is no line of distinction when it comes to promoting your business. PR creates awareness for your brand, while advertising drives sales. Together, they help you to stay ahead of the competition and ensure the success of your business.

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