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Advertising Versus Public Relations-- What's the Difference?

By: Ana Ventura

Ana Ventura specializes in helping businesses, organizations, and individuals get media coverage. She is a PR expert at DrNunley's , a site specializing in affordable publicity services.  Reach Ana at or 801-328-9006.

Oftentimes, when the words "public" and "relations" are thrown together in a sentence, a light bulb goes off in the head shining, "Advertising". However, using advertising and public relations as synonyms is a long shot. So what's the big difference?

One of the most crucial differences between public relations and advertising is that PR is free. That's right, none of your hard earned cash is going to be thrown down to promote your business.

For example, if you run an advertisement in your local newspaper, they charge you for the space you use as well as for the time frame that the ad is run. But if that same newspaper decides that your business or product is article worthy, you are getting great publicity with no out of pocket costs.

While it's great to get free recognition if someone writes an article about your product, the downfall is that you have no content control. In other words, the journalist that takes on the task is going to have all the say in the length, word choice, and format of what is being said about you and your business. Advertising, on the other hand, makes you the boss as long as you've got the cash flow for it.

Along with the benefit of knowing exactly what your ad is going to say, you also have the option of running the ad campaign over and over again if you're getting good results. The media will most likely only run your story once, unless you give them new topics, or an interesting new way of looking at the old ones.

That's not to say that there aren't great benefits that come with public relations, too. How many times have you looked at an ad in a magazine or on a billboard and been beyond skeptical in terms of the product's reliability? When you read an article or blurb about it in a printed media source, though, you are usually more inclined to think that the product is trustworthy.

Sending off a great press release has a lot of advantages that you might not have taken into consideration before. Let's say that your small business is sponsoring a local charity event. It would probably sound awfully snobbish of you to run an ad promoting your own selflessness, but if some other media source decided to talk you up, that would be okay, right?

One important thing to remember is that no one is going to cover your story if it's not interesting to the editor that goes over it. First you have to grab their attention, and hope that the editor or journalist will want to give your business some recognition. You also have to wonder if the audience that sees the coverage will be captivated enough to remember your name when looking for products in your specific market. When you pay for an advertisement, the only audience you have to target is your prospects.

There are great benefits in both the worlds of advertising and public relations. Depending on your budget and your needs, you can figure out a combination that will suit you best.

© Copyright 2001, Ana Ventura.

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