The Difference Between Advertising and PR?

In this latest article I continue to share useful knowledge and resources that I find through my research and networking; things that help people in business learn how to lead and manage change well and better.

For this piece I am grateful to Jane Ellison-Bates of Manifest Marketing as she outlines the difference between PR and advertising – and why that matters

Whether you’re a new start-up with limited time to personally do everything that’s important, or an established business wanting to grow and learn, this should be of interest.  If you are struggling to remove some of your barriers to getting established or finding it difficult to grow, getting your Advertising and Public Relations Strategies and activities right could make a real difference to your future success.

Here Jane raises awareness of some important issues for you to add to your toolkit.


“We all make assumptions that certain aspects of our businesses are as clear to others as they are to us.   Whatever trade you are in it’s probably the same; there are some areas of knowledge which are so fundamental that you may assume other people, especially your customers, know what you know. But maybe they don’t.

I have been amazed on a few occasions when business owners have confessed to me that they don’t really understand the difference between advertising and PR.  After more years than I care to reveal in the business, to me it was obvious, but I have come to realise that it’s always worth highlighting with a new client the differences between the two.

My favourite way to explain it is the ‘earned versus owned’ principle.

When you decide to book and pay a publication for space or airtime you therefore ‘own’ it.  Quite simply, this is advertising.  Its principal advantage is that because you are paying for it, within reason you can say what you like.  You get to choose how it looks, where it appears and when it appears.  You are completely in control.  If anything goes wrong or contravenes the T&Cs of your booking then you have the right to complain and seek some form of recompense.  You are essentially blowing your own trumpet, and if you do it well you will convince some, if not all, of the people who see, hear or watch your advert that they should buy your product or service.

PR is a whole different ball game.  This time you need to ‘earn’ your space or fifteen minutes of fame.  You can’t pay a TV station to be featured on the news, or a magazine to run a feature; you have to be offering something that an editor wants to share with the audience.  It’s much, much harder and as such commands a greater value.  This time someone else thinks you’re interesting and is prepared to publicise it over and above other contenders. As a result, as a basic rule of thumb in the marketing industry, PR coverage is valued at three times its advertising equivalent, so, for example, a full page valued at £1000 in the advertising media pack is worth £3000 as editorial.  And you don’t actually pay them for it.  Weird but true.

Editorial coverage for your product, service or story wins you kudos in your field and sets you apart. The downside might be that your story isn’t deemed interesting and doesn’t appear, or that it gets edited in a way you don’t like; possibly even erroneously.  It happens. Unless it’s actually libelous you are likely to have no comeback.  Alternatively, you may not like the position of the piece; but don’t even think about complaining if you want to have any hope of getting future coverage from them.

And that’s where engaging with Public Relations expertise can make a real difference. If you let a PR specialist get to know your business they will winkle out the interesting stories, present them well to minimise editing and ‘earn’ you that coverage that you covet.”


Find out more about Manifest Marketing at

And please do let us have your comments on this and any article that we publish.


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