What is advertising and public relations

Public relation and advertising is big business. It’s become two interchangeable concepts every business owner should have a firm grasp on. Both advertising and PR can help penetrate potential customers, and increase company visibility. 

In due course, these two similar, yet different areas of expertise have become a multi-billion dollar industry. In the United States alone, ad campaigns revenue is set to reach $241 billion in 2021. 

Traditional advertising meant companies had to make use of print media, television and radio coverage. This was the pinnacle of advertising, and PR teams built strategies around each component to increase earned media opportunities. With the advent of digital technology, and the escalation at which it’s growing, digital advertising has now become a lucrative business.

But although confusion between public relations and advertising is still present, even in modern times. Businesses are pursuing a route that will help grow their audiences and influence the market through modernized mechanisms

Businesses should consider the type of medium (i.e. social media, pop-up banners, television) and the accompanying content. Through this, a better marketing strategy can be drafted of how both public relations and advertising can be leveraged to its best advantage.

What is Advertising?

Today, advertising is big business, and in the United States, online media reached an annual revenue of $228 billion in 2020. These figures are estimated to increase in the coming years, with projections for 2024 close to $284 billion in annual revenue. 

Advertising can be understood as paid media placement and coverage. Businesses make use of (digital) marketers to research targeted audience groups. Through a vigorous process, marketers can create captivating ads that enhance the essence of the business. 

More than 13.7 thousand advertising agencies currently operate in the United States. In other words, businesses have a wider net of services which they can choose from. 

What are Public Relations?

On the other end of the spectrum, we can regard public relations as free publicity through a strategic communication process. It takes a bit of time to build a PR strategy and PR campaign that will land free coverage. Overall, public relations is a way to build trust with clients, through a news website, press releases and other stakeholders. 

Better PR efforts will captivate media outlets. In most instances, third-party endorsements have no obligation to the business. Meaning, that the image they portray of the business can either be good, or bad. This is an unbiased manner in which the company can make use of sponsored content to improve their business reach.

Think of PR as the relationship a business builds with journalists, news publications and the general public. Through this means, a company offers to create more transparency of who they are and what they’re setting out to accomplish. 

What is a main difference between advertising and public relations

Main Differences Between Advertising and Public Relations


Advertising: It’s estimated that more than 50% of online users do not trust banner ads. Advertising is tricky, as you’re setting out to create a credible ad campaign that can inform the market about the service or product. It might be considered more informative, than newsworthy.

PR: PR is newsworthy. Media platforms that cover news related to a company can come across as trustworthy and ultimately, more credible. 

Advertising: Industry experts spend large portions of an annual budget on print and digital ads. Depending on their target audience, these can also include radio and television. Paid content is also more closely associated with branded content through creative control. 

PR: Moreover, PR is unpaid, as PR professionals can create a dynamic strategy that will encapsulate the business. 

Obligation to content 

Advertising: Businesses have better control over their content and their ads. How it should look, and what the message they’re trying to convey. 

PR: Third parties, such as journalists and news media, have no obligation to a certain business. Their portrayal of the business can widely differ from what the business is setting out to achieve.

Media Coverage 

Advertising: When creating ads, for any form of advertising, media coverage can be prolonged with paid ad placements. Whether it be on social media, websites, or billboards – it has a longer running time in the media. It paints a big picture for more credibility. 

PR: Albeit newsworthy, media coverage is once-off and inconsistent. Tomorrow the news will be filtered out by something better, and more interesting. Consumers are looking for a brand that pays close attention to their needs.

Different forms of Advertising


Using inbound advertising allows the business to create ads that will draw in your audience to your service or product. Through a vigorous process, and market research – digital marketers can create ads that can align business goals with the targeted audience


Formerly known as ‘traditional marketing’ outbound marketing focuses on using traditional methods to reach and connect with a targeted audience. 

We also know outbound advertising as:

  • Television 
  • News Papers
  • Billboards 
  • Radio 
  • Print ads

Difference in Cost

Businesses looking to make use of either will need to incur some form of cost. It’s become imperative for any business to set up a full-proof marketing budget that will help them achieve their goals. 

The time it will take for each to successfully be achieved should also closely be considered. While many PR campaigns run only for a few days or weeks. Advertisement on the other hand can run over several weeks and months. Ultimately this will also indicate the range of the marketing budget. 

Quality over quantity always triumphs. Thus, spending more resources and time to create quality content (i.e. press releases, or third party endorsement deals) will enhance the consumer decision making process. 

Public Relations

PR retainers will differ across the board. But companies can spend between $2,000 to more than $50,000 on monthly PR retainers. The costs will depend on the type of coverage the business is looking to attain. More so, the quality of content, media coverage, and how a PR strategy is set up to help create better and improved brand awareness. 


Because there is a wide variety of advertising mediums available, the cost will be dependent on the business needs and the targeted audience. 

Inbound advertising has become a better, and relatively affordable option for many businesses. It incorporates better creative designs and expression of the business. 

  • Search Engine Optimization: $4,000 to $10,000 for set up. 
  • Email Marketing: $3,500 to $50,000 for set up.
  • Pay-per-click Marketing: $4,000 to $10,000 for set up. 

Outbound advertising can incur more expenses. But national reach can be quicker, and more effective. An advertisement of this extent should convey meaningful information

  • Television: $60,000 to $8 million.
  • Print: $500 to $350,000 for set up per ad.

The costs of PR and advertising services will depend on the product or service the business is trying to bring to its market of consumers. Furthermore, this will help understand where they can reach their audience better, and which medium will best suit the needs of the business. 


What is public relation in advertising?

Public relations helps to create awareness and media coverage for a business, product, or service. More so, in modern media, public relations in advertising is a collaboration between a brand and a media platform.
A PR strategy is created that will help build a PR-Media relationship. This will allow for retaining media coverage and advertising through the use of these strategies. 

Final Thoughts

It’s difficult to say whether or not these two concepts can exist without the other. It’s quite noticeable that without public relations, companies will have difficulty building credibility with advertisers and consumers. 

Overall, the need of the business should be considered as the main priority, and afterwards the target audience. PR teams should build a strategy that will push the company to new frontiers. While digital marketers work on advertising plans for new services and products. 

Advertising is the visual aspect of the business, while PR is used to stir more interest and hype around something. Businesses should regard the importance of each on an independent basis. As the existence of any business will rely heavily on the latter of both public relations and advertising.