PR versus Advertising

In my opinion, the difference between advertising and PR can be described quite simply by saying that “advertising makes a statement”, while “PR tells a story”. The advertisement tries to catch your attention for that short time span that will allow it to tout it’s message (hence the notion that advertising is ‘interruptive’): “This product is the best/the cheapest/the sexiest/the whatever”. Often (and often not…) this statement is made in an entertaining, funny way; yet it seldomly leaves the viewer/listener with something to keep musing and talking about to others. The latter exactly is the strength of PR – providing the audience with an intriguing story that is worth telling on to others.

This storytelling can be done in a variety of different forms – a newspaper article (or, for that matter, the PR classic ‘media coverage’) is just one of them; it could just as well be an interactive web application or whatever. Simply something that will inspire people to talk about it to other people.

The execution of a good PR story can even be an advertisement! I’d go as far as arguing that advertising that’s based on a PR idea will have a much stronger impact, since it will go beyond purely making a statement. It will trigger discussion, forming part of a story that people will want to tell on to others.

Earlier campaigns by Benetton were clearly routed in a PR strategy rather than an advertising one; and my personal belief is that even the famous Dove campaign (‘real women’) was initially a PR approach.

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