Public Relations

by Debbie Leven

The difference between PR and marketing

Marketing covers a broader remit than PR, because it looks at the different elements involved in identifying and satisfying needs. One of those elements is promotion, and PR is just one of a number of ways of promoting an organisation, an individual, products, services and so on. Other methods of promotion include direct sales, advertising, direct mail and sales promotion.

Marketing tends to focus on the customer and making sales, where PR usually has a wider remit than just the customers and focuses on perception and building and protecting reputation.

The difference between PR and advertising

Advertising and PR are different elements of the marketing mix and they fulfil different roles. They are not mutually exclusive and organisations may, depending on their product or service, use both at the same time. Advertising will certainly help to raise awareness in key press and media, but it will not build credibility as good PR does.

Advertising is a way of raising the profile, attracting public attention to a product/service/organisation or whatever through paid announcements in print, broadcast or electronic media. In advertising, you define and control the message and you know that, providing you pay the agreed amount for the space/air time, the advert will appear as you have defined it (assuming it abides by advertising rules and regulations).



The promotion of a product, service or message by an identified sponsor using paid-for-media.


By contrast, PR is not paid for in this way. A journalist isn’t paid by an organisation to write a story about that organisation – the article gets published on merit, in other words on its news/interest value. PR influences the message but cannot ultimately control it because whatever efforts are made, the PR department or consultant cannot guarantee coverage or that the message will be conveyed in the way the organisation desires. So, PR people may talk to journalists, but cannot control what they write and, ultimately, what gets printed in the newspaper.

The skill of the PR practitioner lies in understanding what the journalist wants and providing them with that information, ‘packaged’ in the correct format/way, to give the best opportunity of getting the organisation’s messages across.

What is the difference between PR and advertorial?

Advertorial is similar to advertising, as it is paid for. It is designed to look, however, like PR and includes editorial and sometimes a photo. Particular publications and certain types of publication sometimes offer paid-for opportunities by contacting those sending in press releases (news information regarding the organisation) and offering to print the information for a fee, or asking for a fee for ‘colour separation’ for any photo included.

You might sometimes see ‘advertising feature’ at the top of the page, indicating that the story placed there has been paid for. So, the piece will be written in a story format/editorial style, but will have been paid for, just like any other form of advertising.