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PR Campaign vs. Advertising Campaign Differences

Clément René

Jan 23, 2020

For some, the line between a PR campaign and an advertising campaign remains unclear, so we’ve decided to clear things up by demonstrating the differences.

What's an Advertising Campaign?

Advertising is a form of Paid Media. It’s a method of promoting content and increasing your visibility by parting ways with cash. Advertising can take various forms including pay per click ads, advertorials, banner ads, endorsements etc.

One of the key benefits of ad campaigns is that marketing professionals have much more control over when, where, and how a message is sent. This level of control means advertising campaigns are a great way to craft perception amongst a target pool of consumers since we can ensure that content is 'on brand' and favourable- however, it's worth keeping in mind that this does come at a price. Advertising, regardless of the medium, is not cheap!

Much to the joy of ad and marketing professionals, advertising targeting capabilities have come some way in the past few years. We can now get as granular as targeting ads based on the search engine our target audience is using or targeting ads based on similar Twitter accounts consumers are following. This avoidance of a 'spray and pray' approach often balances out of the cost.

What's a PR campaign?

A PR campaign produces earned visibility, usually through a third party. For example, the cab company Uber took advantage of a vast amount of positive and negative public relations coverage around the brand. This directly impacted the perception of the company, its reputation and its brand story. If influential newspapers speak of us in a positive light, we’ve hit PR campaign jackpot! It is therefore important to build strong relationships with journalists before we roll out a PR campaign so that we can increase the chances of positive coverage around our brand.

Whereas budget is a factor which largely affects the impact of advertising campaigns, in the case of PR campaigns, relationship building is at the forefront in determining the quality of coverage and whether the PR mention is more favourable. 

How does a PR campaign differ from an Advertising Campaign?

Third-party endorsement of our brand is the desired result from a PR campaign. The audience is much more likely to accept a message from a third party than when the message comes from the brand itself as it seems more trustworthy. As such, audiences find PR campaigns more credible than advertising. In terms of image and reputation, a successfully built PR campaign is the ultimate weapon. Advertising conversely provides opportunities for targeting. An advertising campaign offers reach, whilst a PR campaign offers credibility.

The Importance of Thinking about Public Relations and Advertising in Tandem

While there is a clear difference between public relations and advertising, bear in mind they do impact each other too, thus it doesn't always make sense to view PR and advertising as who separate identifies. For example, advertising can cause a knock-on effect on PR. When we pay celebrities to endorse a brand, their appearance tends to generate a wave of interest from publications. Take Romeo Beckham’s appearance in a Burberry advert as an example. Meltwater’s Media Intelligence platform found that Burberry received 1,774 press mentions in one month (October) compared to 2,334 press mentions in November, the month the advert was aired.

Here are some other ways that PR impacts advertising and vice versa:

• Use advertising to increase the reach of PR coverage, for example, invest in Twitter ads to drive targeted audiences to view cool public relation features

• Pay influencers to collaborate with your brand and increase PR mentions (like the example mentioned above)

• Use a media intelligence tool to analyse PR coverage, for example, trending themes, and use insights to inform PPC landing page content and communicate a cohesive message

• Analyse Paid Media search trends to inform the angle of a PR campaign 

Hopefully the differences between a PR and advertising campaign is much more clear!