Understanding the similarities and differences of Advertising and Public Relations

There are many differences between advertising and public relations. It is important to understand the differences, especially if one is a public relations practitioner and beginning to work on a project for a company. Public relations consists of the use of multiple tactics whereas advertising is a tactic that is often employed in public relations.

According to Reginald Moody (2012), public relations strength is the ability to manage communications, create relationships, to inform and influence attitude and behavior, and to build greater understanding and trust. This is all done through effective communication. PR is used to communicate with the public and ensure that they are being properly informed about something that is occurring within a company whether it is positive or negative.

Public relations is not something that you see. Public relations is more of the behind the scenes work whereas advertising is where what the people see. According to the website prinyourpajamas.com, PR involves free placement, but there is less control over what is created or written. Advertising, on the other hand, is paid placement, but there is complete control over what is created or written (What is the difference, n.d.).

Robert Wynne put together a chart that illustrates differences between advertising and public relations. According to him, advertising is a paid experience, builds exposure, gives complete creative control and guarantees placement. However, when it comes to advertising, the ads are mostly visual that says “buy this product”, the audience may be skeptical, and it is more expensive (Wynne, 2014).

Public relations is an earned experience that builds trust. PR is less expensive and uses language that says “this is important,” usually referring to something that company is hoping to get out to their audience. However, in PR, the audience is not the one to give validation. The media gives third-party validation, controls the final version that goes out to the public, and there is no guarantee that the item will be even be placed. The PR team has to persuade media to place their ad or work (Wynne, 2014).

I think that it is important for people who are studying advertising and public relations to have a basic idea of what both mean, how they differ, and how they are similar when they go into the working world. Having taken a fundamentals of advertising and currently taking a fundamentals of public relations class, I am able to see the differences between these two similar, but very different parts of communications. By having that understanding, it adds to one’s arsenal of tools that they can use once they graduate from college and have a job. Even if they don’t work in a PR firm, having the ability to see everything from a PR point of view may be able to help when it comes to planning an advertising campaign. I see having that background as a way to understand what the company is aiming to achieve. I also feel that it go both ways, the PR practitioner having the advertising background. If they at least had a basic background in some topics in advertising, they could have some ideas that helps move the campaign along and have some ideas prepared for the advertising department.

Overall, I find that it is important to understand where advertising and PR may overlap and when it is necessary to be able to distinguish between the two. By creating that understanding, it can set a person up for a career outside of school as well as allow for overlap when planning a campaign for a client.




Moody, R. (2012). Integrating public relations with advertising: An exercise for students in the college public relations campaigns course. Communication Teacher, 26(4), 203. doi:10.1080/17404622.2012.668201

What is the Difference Between PR and Advertising. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2015, from http://prinyourpajamas.com/what-is-the-difference-between-pr-and-advertising/

Wynne, R. (2014). The real difference between PR and advertising. Retrieved March 9, 2015, from




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