Advertising vs Public Relations

by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded

In the marketing industry, clients have sometimes grappled on what is most effective, advertising or public relations? If you ask some ad agencies, they will tell you advertising drives marketing. If you ask some public relations firms, they will tell you that public relations gives you more bang for your buck. In my 25 years of marketing, I’ve had the privilege to work, and learn, in some at some of the best advertising agencies and public relations firms. Here are a few concepts that I’ve incorporated into our agency:

1. Advertising is for the long haul
Advertising is the foundation to build your brand. It’s the constant hum that keeps your company and products/services in the minds of your customers and prospects. The main goal is to never go “dark” because it’s still true, “out of sight, out of mind”. Ad campaigns are strategic pushes that you ADD on top of what you’re already doing to reach critical mass. Whether it’s a new product introduction, breaking into a new market or just reminding the world the value you can bring to their lives.

2. Public Relations is spikes
Public Relations is able to gain quick momentum in a short amount of time. It’s a great tool to gain quick awareness, buzz, and become the center of social media. PR’s effectiveness lies in their relationships with media outlets, influencers, and individuals. It’s a great way to either be the lead edge of an ad campaign or to drive interest when advertising is in maintenance mode. It provides quick, immediate spikes in the market space. Public Relations also is very effective when it comes to crisis control or driving home important information that needs to get out in a short amount of time.

3. Know how to use both
In our experience, not too many companies can afford to spend full blast on both advertising and public relations at the same time. To gain maximum effectiveness from both tools, we’ve incorporated a “yin-yang” approach (see chart). This ensures that we never go “dark” in the market space and that we use each tool for what it’s meant to be. Some marketers I’ve seen, want to use PR as their advertising strategy. The problem they run into is PR is very dependent on new news. No new news, no interest. It’s very unrealistic to think a company will have great new things that’s worth a significant amount of spend every month. Eventually, your media relationships will sense you’re crying wolf too much and begin to ignore your pitches. On the other hand, some expect advertising to create immediate buzz and become the darling of social media. Unless you do something very daring and bold, that’s unlikely to happen.

Adverstising PR chart

If any agency, advertising or PR, says that the other isn’t worth the investment, they really don’t know how to market in my opinion. You see, more and more agencies are blurring the lines. Ad agencies forming PR departments and visa versa. It’s the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing. This coordination is powerful and extremely effective. I will bet on my chances of winning with both fists’ swinging vs having one hand tied behind my back.


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

2 Responses to “Advertising vs Public Relations”

  1. Great Post! Alot of people really dont know the difference between marketing, advertising and public Relations. I would love to see a blog regarding social media from your pov.

  2. Thank you for your compliment. It’s great to get input from colleagues. I don’t know about your experiences, but at times, we have had to do some “education” before we even begin the courtship with certain prospects. I will definitely work on a blog about social media from our view. I would love to know your thoughts as well. Please feel free to email me anytime at Thank you, again, for your comments.

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