What is the difference between advertising and media relations?

Public Relations is something all brands should consider as part of their long-term business strategy, but many brands don’t know the difference between what PR can offer versus advertising. So, we thought we’d pull together a blog post that clearly defines the two, helping you decide which route to choose.

Firstly, when we talk about PR we are referring to the creation of stories that will appear as editorial pieces in a media title, such as a newspaper or magazine. As PR specialists we not only think up the idea for a story, we also write it then pitch it to the press. This means that we ask journalists to publish the story in their title so that a specific audience or variety of audiences can read it. We call this ‘organic’ or ‘earned media’ because we haven’t paid for it.  

Advertising space is something you pay for that conveys a brand message but doesn’t always tell a story. There is usually a call to action at the end of the advert that the target audience is required to carry out. It generally sits alongside other brand adverts within a specific section of the publication, and you pay for the size of the space, which can be quite expensive. The audience reached is generally smaller than if you were to go down a traditional, organic PR route.

We often refer to PR as ‘media relations’ because of how closely we have to work with members of the press or media. Building bonds with journalists and learning how they like to be pitched to can take many years to perfect. Once you have nailed this process you can approach journalists with various stories and are more likely to get them published.

PR professionals understand the media landscape and which stories will sink or swim. They advise a client on what the best stories are and tell them on their behalf. Clients trust PR professionals who can pinpoint what their key messaging is and can positively represent them via stories or ‘newshooks’.

In the world of PR credibility counts – readers must believe the story you are telling and there can’t be any holes in it which is why it is our job to showcase a client’s expertise within their sector.

At Sway PR we always ensure the reliability of every story we send out because if we wouldn’t believe it, why should anyone else?

We always ask the question “who cares?” – we tell the stories we would want to read, but we also put ourselves in the reader’s shoes. The newshook is vital. We don’t do PR for the sake of it. If we don’t see the value, we won’t pursue it. Advertising doesn’t work in the same way – if the right budget is available, you can have the space.

As well as press releases, PR professionals will provide expert comments to journalists to support their stories or arrange interviews with clients.

It’s our job to ensure our client feels comfortable speaking to the media. We deliver media training that equips a client with the skills to talk on TV and radio. They are the face of their brand and need to tell their story with confidence.

There are three things to consider when thinking about a PR strategy:

  • Being seen in the right places: The credibility that comes with quality media coverage positions your brand in the right places.
  • Being more visible: Increasing the number of opportunities to see media articles about your brand will drive awareness and engagement with your target customer.
  • Cost effective: An article in Forbes said that “PR can be 90% more effective than advertising.”

Not only that, but PR can be measured. We use a reporting system that enables us to see how many people have read every single piece of coverage and story we get placed in publications. We share this data with the client on a regular basis and ask them to let us know if they have noticed an uplift in sales or traffic to their website in the weeks after a story has gone live.

We predominantly get online media coverage containing links which boosts SEO value and helps to track where leads have come from. However, we also get print media coverage for our clients.

If all of that still hasn’t convinced you that PR is essential to your brand, then here are some quick fire take aways to help you decide:

How can PR help?

  • Public Relations is a traditional way to share a brand’s story with a wider audience and helps you stand out in a crowded market. The key to good stories is unique selling points.
  • While marketing strategies are built around getting the word out about your brand, a public relations strategy aims to maintain a positive reputation for your business and brand experience as a whole. PR works hand in hand with marketing to amplify messages, build credibility and reach more potential customers.
  • Every client we work with is an expert in their sector and we always look for unique opportunities for them to give their expert opinion to journalists and industry titles in the form of quotes or Q&A’s, as well as broadcast interviews.
  • As PR professionals, with over 50 years’ experience, we understand what makes a good story. We work with our clients to find out what they want to achieve so we can deliver the biggest impact.
  • PR professionals can also help a business to launch a new product / service and arrange media visits.
  • PR can reach audiences around the world.

To find out how we could help your brand tell its story, send us a message at [email protected]– we love to chat.