The Difference between PR and Advertising



Somewhere in America :

“Honey, we need to discuss which car we’re going to purchase before the sale at ABC Motors ends”, Tracy said to her husband Tom. “Ok. We’ll discuss it tonight after dinner”, Tom says.

Conversations such as this one can be heard across America every day. Advertising influences decisions like this, but so does PR. What’s the difference? This couple’s story will make it evident.

Later that evening, after dinner, the two took out their respective literature detailing the kind of car they were most interested in purchasing.


Tom was intent on purchasing the new Edelman PRo 4×4, which was recently ranked 1st in its class in fuel economy, handling, safety, and performance in Car & Driver’s 4×4 analyst survey. It was also among the top 3 in storage space, which was a big concern, as all three of their children need to be driven to little league practice every Saturday.


Tracy had her eye on the Saatchi ADvent 4×4 whose full-page advertisement she so proudly placed on the table in front of Tom. Her eyes gleaming, she said “Isn’t she beautiful? A car that big has got to be safe and roomy. And look at the soccer mom and her two cute kids in the back seat with all their equipment. Let’s get the Saatchi!!”

Based on the scenario above, which vehicle would you prefer? If you’re not sure, read on.

TV and radio advertisements, billboards, full-page ads in the New York Times, and signs on public buses are examples of advertising. Companies and organizations pay large amounts of money to advertising companies to create messages to compel the masses to buy, think, read, want, see, do, etc…Nothing that Tracy deduced from the advertisement was factual regarding the features of the vehicle.

Free radio ads, an article in the New York Times, a survey by writers in an automotive magazine, and an auto analyst’s review in a trade journal are examples of the placements a public relations firm secures. PR firms are hired by companies and organizations to promote their products and ideas with facts. All the vehicle’s features Tom deduced from the survey were factual.

The major difference between advertising and PR as described above is that:

  • Companies pay agencies for creating ads and placing them directly in the masses view. There is no intermediary, and no 3rd party to judge that which is being communicated to the public, and is a biased promotion. Advertising promotes a controllable message since it is essentially a pay-for-play scenario.
  • Public Relations is about promoting a product or service by making a persuasive argument based on fact. In PR, a 3rd party often judges the persuasiveness of the argument before it reaches the masses. That 3rd party can be a journalist, writer, or analyst that is educated by the PR firm who is called upon to determine if the PR professional has effectively made their case.

Alex Gutman is a writer, publicist and marketer. His roots are in technology coupled with over 15 years of writing (creative, B2B, B2C, PR) experience. In conjunction with his background in the music industry where he has put artists on stages in front of tens of thousands over the past 15 years, he seeks to take products and/or ideas to another level by placing them on the lighted stage.

His specialty is finding outreach opportunities and reaching out using the power of the written word. This could lead to success as disparate as securing press, a briefing with an analyst, a potential partnership, sponsorship or a joint alliance opportunity. Read more here.

Alex believes that storytelling is a powerful strategy to get your message out to the masses. He can be reached at


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