PR vs. Advertising: Which is better for building brands and sales?

4 July 2024 | 6 min read | PR
Clearly Team

What is the main difference between public relations (PR) and advertising? Any guesses?

Most businesses assume that advertising is the way to go for building their brand and boosting their sales pipeline. It can certainly help, that is not disputed.

But what if you knew that PR actually surpasses advertising in its ability to win over customers – would that shift your focus when it comes to where to spend your promotional budget?

Where are businesses and brand investing their promotional budgets right now?

Recent data shows that advertising spend by businesses in the UK is currently hovering around the £36 billion mark, whilst the UK PR industry is worth somewhere in the region of £4.6 billion.

Does this suggest that businesses and brands are generating the ROI they need and that’s why they’re spend on PR is either minimal or non existent?

The answer is ‘No.’ What it shows is that PR needs to get better at selling its value to businesses and brands. The outcomes are obvious to those who do PR, but they remain relatively unknown to traditionalists who favour advertising because, well, that’s all they have ever done.

See the impact PR had on growing these businesses from both a revenue and reputation perspective. Click for ‘Client Results.

What’s the difference between Advertising and PR?

Advertising is paying media outlets to promote the message they want to say exactly how they want to say it. It is controlled and not open to debate, subjecture, criticism, or praise.

PR, however, is when those same media outlets want to feature and talk about your business or brand because they like and value what you are all about and have to say. Your coverage is ‘earned’ rather than ‘paid’ for.

Another aspect to the element of control is that you decide when your advertising campaign starts and finishes. You can get in front of those customers looking to buy right now, but to do so with those who may not be at the purchasing point of the buyer’s journey just yet you’ll invariably burn a lot of your budget to stay front of mind for when they are ready to buy.

Advertising happens when you pay money to tell your customers and target audience how great you are. Public relations happens when your customers and target audience tell each other how great you are without you having to tell them.

Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, MD Clearly PR

PR is very different. It can take weeks from commencing work with a PR agency before you land your first piece of coverage, and what you get from this time investment is all manner of wonderful stuff ranging from backlinks to your website, referrals, and a whole lot of credibility that has been earned not paid for.

Does Advertising or PR deliever the highest ROI?

PR has been shown to be 90 per cent more effective than advertising. We disagree; it is probably higher judging by the responses that our clients shared in our anonymous client satisfaction survey in June 2024.

When presented with the statement, “The results generated by Clearly PR are beneficial to my business,” 50% of clients responded with “strongly agree” and 50% stated they “agree.”

Put another way, clients reported that the PR work we undertake for them significantly supports the strategic objectives of their organisation – and ‘growth’ is the number one priority.

Click to see case study

Case study: How PR generated £000,000s in new revenues and reached 100 million people

Click to read case study.

Why PR is the growth and reputation management strategy of choice for businesses and brands

There are 5 big reasons why we believe PR is taking centre stage and what businesses need to increase their spend in PR:

  1. PR positions you as the go-to expert, boosting trust in your brand.
  2. Media coverage demonstrates your credibility and thought leadership.
  3. PR raises the profiles of your executives as industry authorities.
  4. PR generates a higher ROI than advertising over the long-term.
  5. PR is crucial for protecting your reputation during a crisis.
Is PR expensive?

Yes it is, when it isn’t done right. In 10 years of Clearly, not a single client has ever described their PR investment with us as ‘expensive.’

Some of the advertising campaigns you have previously run may have generated new business, whilst others were done more as a brand building exercise and yielded less of a return.

But the results were likely short-lived and limited only to the period during which the campaign ran. Public relations has a different impact. Rather than generate the hits in short-term bursts that coincide with the timings of the campaign itself, PR’s impact is felt long after the party. Its effects are felt over the mid to long-term.

What does PR involve?

Public relations is all about sales. PR people don’t like to admit to this and will try and dress up another way, but this is what it is. So, the tactics that PR agencies like Clearly PR deploy can include:

  • Getting the organisation’s key people quoted in the media that your target audience consumes the most, whether in newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, and online.
  • Securing speaker opportunities on podcasts, webinars, conferences, and networking events.
  • Positioning your key people as true industry thought leaders – individuals who really do know their arses from their elbows when it comes to their area of expertise (and can demonstrate it!).
  • Creating digital content that elevates the organisation’s online presence above the rising level of ‘noise’ and driving engagement with audiences.

There is lot more to it than that, of course. Essentially, the role of PR is to get your organisation seen, read and heard by the right people, in the right way and at the right time in a way that increases its impact, influence, and income.

PR is only expensive when it isn’t done right, or by people who don’t care enough about your business and the powerful ways the work they do can affect desired outcomes and the lives of everyone involved.

Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, MD Clearly PR

The pandemic accelerated this PR revolution as customers became wary of being ‘sold to.’ They want to buy from brands they can trust – and third-party endorsements from the media build that trust in a way advertising can’t match.

Want the full insights on how to leverage PR to build your brand reputation and bottom line? Get in touch with Paul MacKenzie-Cummins and we’ll get you started on your journey to growing your brand and your bottom line.

Contact Paul via this link.