What’s the difference between PR and Advertising?

Written by the Editorial Team

by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, Editor of Recruiter imPRint and managing director at ClearlyPR

I spent the first 10 years of my career working in advertising for the likes of Guardian Media, Daily Mirror and Yell and am one of the few people working in PR who has experienced both the advertising and PR industries.

Of course, there are certain overlaps between the two disciplines, but there are many more clear distinctions that it is important to be aware of.

First, a few things that PR is NOT:

  • It is NOT a cheaper alternative to advertising It won’t generate the same results as advertising for a lower price.
  • It does NOT only involve press releases and schmoozing journalists Press releases are fast-becoming obsolete (just ask Coca-Cola – they stopped issuing press releases in 2015).
  • Nor does it include schmoozing journalists and editors Those days are over. Declining newspaper circulations means journalists are even more finicky about what they do and don’t print, so ‘favours for a mate’ are pretty much consigned to the history books.
  • It is NOT sales If you ask your PR agency how many sales your PR has generated, don’t be surprised when they reply with a growl.
  • It is NOT easy If it was, you wouldn’t be using a PR ageny like us in the first place, would you?! We’re trained, professionally qualified and have oodles of experience doing what we do. That’s why we get results.

A few things that PR actually DOES involve:

  • Blogs – Educating and informing your audience with valuable content.
  • Speaking at events – Demonstrating your specialist knowledge in a specific area.
  • Featured articles – Sharing your insights among your core demographic.
  • Case studiesShowing your success.
  • Social media – Keeping abreast of real time trends and events with information that matters most to your audience.
  • White papers – The How-to format that shows off your expertise for the benefit of others.
  • Stakeholder engagement and investor relations – Communicating with everyone involved with the business.
  • Video – Raising your online profile and branding and sharing valuable content.
  • International communications – Engaging with your most important asset, your people.
  • Oh, and press releases – Getting your news ‘out there’ in the traditional sense.

How PR differs to Advertising:


Advertising is more expensive than PR, but PR can also be costly…if it isn’t done right. Just ask Ed Milliband (remember when he put his pledges in stone…quite literally?).




The Chartered Institute of Public Relations defines PR as “the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”

We prefer to say that PR is about being seen, read and heard by the right people, at the right time and in the right way.

It’s about trust, understanding, relationship building, influence, relevance and creating a buzz around you and your brand. Get these elements nailed down, then PR will add more to your bottom line than any amount of advertising ever could.