Most experts suggest you use both public relations and advertising in your marketing mix, but far too many executives neglect the former or lack even a basic awareness about the difference between the two.
Advertising refers to paid promotion while public relations refers to unpaid promotion. Public relations is estimated to be up to ten times more effective per column inch — think about the following contrast: what does your eye turn to when reading a newspaper, a large display ad or a small interesting article on the same page.
Public relations is effective because there is a neutral “gatekeeper,” the editors and reporters who decide whether your article is newsworthy.
Moreover, the explosion of online promotion, social media and relatively new formats such as blogs have boosted public relations far above advertising. Advertising online is generally regarded as spam and quickly deleted. However, unpaid promotion online includes many different vehicles such as e-newsletters, blogs, online publications, etc. These formats are free — unlike banner ads, Adwords, etc. — and so they properly fit into the category of online PR.
The public relations industry is still adjusting to this rapid broadening of its horizons. The field of “push” PR, sending out press releases, brochures, etc., is slowly giving way to “pull” PR or inbound marketing. Strategies such as search engine optimization let interested parties find you instead of the other way around.