Why PR is Better Than Advertising

Though it’s sometimes difficult to determine the difference between advertising and public relations, Zach Parker with our PRGN partner in Arkansas, Ghidotti Communications, explains why the latter is better than the former. Click here to read his original post or keep reading below and feel free to leave a comment or question for us at the end. 

Why PR is Better Than Advertising

By Zach Parker, Ghidotti Communications


Since public relations and advertising both work toward accomplishing the same goals for a business or organization, it can be difficult to determine the difference between the two and which is more effective. At their core, advertising and PR are tools that brands use to reach their target audience and promote their product or service. The most basic difference between the two is that advertising spots are paid for, while public relations placements are earned through media pitches and press releases. With money on the line, marketers feel immense pressure to decide where they should focus their efforts and with all due respect to Don Draper, PR is better than advertising.


One of the most pressing downsides of advertising is the lack of authenticity. Consumers know that image, video or message was bought, and unless it’s something compelling like a Super Bowl commercial, they are unlikely to give it their full attention. Think of the last time you were watching a YouTube video or your favorite Hulu series. Do you remember the ad that played before it started or did you skip at the earliest opportunity?

Public relations, on the other hand, provides third-party credibility in the form of a journalist, blogger or influencer. A company or organization pitches an idea, but the story itself is told by someone else. Just as you did for the advertisement, now think of the last article you read or news story you heard. Chances are it’s much easier to remember specific details since the information came from a reliable source rather than straight from a business. That’s the power of PR in action.


When it comes to advertising, you get exactly what you paid for and nothing more. Let’s use TV commercials as an example. If a law firm pays for a 30-second ad to promote its criminal defense practice, the law firm gets a 30-second ad to promote its criminal defense practice. However, with public relations, messages and information can be delivered time and time again.

Instead of a commercial, let’s say one of the firm’s attorneys scores an interview with a business publication about a recent case. While the message is out of the firm’s hands, that article could then be picked up by another publication, shared on social media or used in a media pitch to secure another interview. Now, instead of just one ad that was over and done with in less than a minute, the firm has generated far more exposure and reach through its PR practices.

In what other ways is PR better than advertising? Leave us a comment below and tell us why!

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9 thoughts on “Why PR is Better Than Advertising

  1. Advertising is cooking once and eating once. PR is cooking once and eating twice…with leftovers.

  2. Zach, thanks for the contribution. In the old days, we used to say “You pay for advertising, you pray for PR.” But I think you’ve identified why public relations ultimately is better: it’s because through public relations, we tell stories. And stories stick with people longer than a one-shot ad. Cheers, David

  3. Thanks for sharing! Like many in the public relations industry, I started my career as a journalist and truly believe you can’t overstate the value of good storytelling. Of course, advertising still has its place in the communications world but the personal touch with PR gives it the edge in my opinion.

  4. Agree with so many of these comments. PR is about two-way communications and building relationships. Advertising just can’t do that … not to say advertising isn’t useful for brands/organizations, but in my opinion PR is much more bang for your buck and building trust and loyalty with your stakeholders.

  5. Having worked across the full spectrum, I have always believed that PR and advertising are two sides of the same coin. Ideally, they work in synch. However, if you have to choose only one, I have learned that PR will pay for itself time and again, with the power of that third-party endorsement. This is especially true as the proliferation of paid options has turned consumers into much more savvy – and, frankly, cynical – targets. They know when they’re being “sold” something.

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