The Difference Between A Public Relations Firm and an Advertising Agency

What are the differences between public relations and advertising agencies? The differences may be significant if you are looking to spend a considerable amount of money to promote your business.

Although they seem similar in that both are strategic marketing companies; they are quite different from each other.  Below are listed some of the difference between public relations and advertising agencies.

Paid or Free Space

In advertising the company knows precisely when the advertisement will appear and be published because they have paid for the advertisement space. In public relations, the aim is to get free publicity for the company it represents. This might be press releases of news conferences. The focus is on free media exposure.

Creative Control or No Control

If you're using an advertising agency, you have full control over the content of the advertisement proposed. In public relations, you'll have no control over how the media will use your company or product information. Neither are they under any obligation to use material you have provided them with.

Advertisement Run

If your paying an advertising agency, you can run an ad for as long as you wish. Conversely, a press release can be very brief and usually occurs once, as will a news conference. There is a slim chance of a magazine editor running a press release more than one time. You will also have no control over the timing, and that may be critical to you and your business.


Consumers are very aware what an advertisement is, and know its purpose is to sell them something. A public relations press release is a little different, as it is a third party describing your company or services, and not a paid advertisement by you. This on the whole carries much more weight with the consumer.

Creativity or News

In advertising, you have the full range of creativity and materials at your disposal for the purposes of creating advertising campaigns. Conversely in public relations the idea is to establish a buzz with any tip bits of news that comes your way. Public relations creativity is funneled into searching for news to release to the media.

In House or Vend Out

An advertising agency has its staff and clients as contacts only. In public relations, the object is to network and not be limited to in-house, and always be in touch with various forms of media.

Target Audience or Wining and Dining Editors

Advertising agencies are looking for your target audience, and all advertising will be aimed at them exclusively. In public relations, your point is to impress editors to run press releases for your company or client, which isn't an exact science.

Contact Limited or Unlimited

In advertising, you may never see your client face to face. In public relations, you'll need a much more visible presence and may be required to be a spokesperson on behalf of the company.

Special Events

Advertising isn't the best way to sponsor an event, whereas public relation skills are perfect for this type of occasion in the form of press releases and publications covering the advent.

Writing Style

In advertising you can decide the content of your advertisement and the style of writing required. In public relations, you're at the mercy of the media, which may not convey your company or product as you would like.

As you can see from the above, advertising agencies and public relation agencies provide two distinct and very different skills. Both have their place in promoting a growing business, and the skill is to use the right agency for the right occasion.