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  • Writer's pictureKatlyn Haugrud

Advertising and Public Relations: What’s the difference?

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

In the communications industry, the terms “advertising” and “public relations” may be tossed around interchangeably. But what are the differences between the two? Is there a time when it’s better to use one over the other?

Contrary to popular belief, Public Relations isn’t just necessary when your organization is dealing with a crisis. PR professionals have many different roles, including:

  • Event planning

  • Social media management

  • Media relations

  • Conducting research

No matter what a PR professional does in a day, they all have one thing in common – they all focus on relationship building. PR professionals work to monitor an organization’s image and ensure it stays positive. By building relationships with the media and community, they spread awareness about the organization.

Public Relations is often more trusted than advertising. PR professionals get the word out about their organization by contacting the media in a press release. This means that coverage won’t only come in the form of paid advertisements, but also through trusted media outlets. Because they are not paying for ads, public relations is also cheaper than advertising. However, this comes at a risk – when you trust the media with your story, they are free to change it however they want.

On the other hand, advertisers have complete control over the messages they send out. Whether it’s a billboard on the interstate or a sponsored post on Instagram, advertisers pay for their content to be anywhere and everywhere. It gets expensive quickly, but can be worth it if it encourages an audience to take action.


Advertising is everywhere, but it’s also less trusted. Anyone can place a paid advertisement, and it’s difficult to gain a consumer’s trust. This is why companies rely on the PR department to boost their credibility. From there, advertisers can do their work. Among many other things, advertisers spend their time:

  • Designing and writing copy for ads

  • Purchasing spaces for advertisements to be run

  • Researching trends in the market

Advertising and public relations work together. Next time you’re promoting an event or service, look at how you can use both to achieve your goals.

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