The Real Difference Between PR and Advertising

In the first half of the class, the discussion centered on communication. In this unit, the focus will be on using
communication techniques to effectively establish public relations and marketing for an organization.
Marketing departments are concerned with advertising and public relations (PR), and the communication
channels they use have radically changed in the last few years due to new technology platforms.
Both advertising campaigns and public relations are concerned with publicity—sending a message to the
audience (established customers and potential customers) about a product or service that the organization
offers. In Forbes, Robert Wynne (2014) explains in his article, “The Real Difference Between PR and
Advertising,” that advertising is considered to be paid media while PR is considered to be earned media. Each
type of media platform—magazines, newspapers, television stations, websites, and so forth—has specific
sections where paid advertising appears. With PR, the message moves outside of these paid-for sections into
a story or the editorial section, which falls under the category of promotional activities. They often are
concerned with more subtle publicity, involving relationship building and forging a mutual-trust relationship
with the audience. This helps develop credibility.
Communication Channels
Communication channels are constantly changing in modern society. Media and communication models that
have been established over the years have undergone fundamental changes, primarily due to the introduction
of the Internet into our lives. Effective marketing communication in both PR and advertising depends on
developing a compelling message and delivering it to the right audience. Traditional media sources, such as
television, radio, and print, still exist and are viable options but are limited in scope when compared to online
media. The Internet offers an almost borderless way to transmit communication to the world’s population. The
trusted third party discussed by Wynne (2014) may no longer be a network or newspaper reporter, but
instead, it may be a person on social media with thousands of people who follow his or her channel.
Case Study: KitchenAid and Twitter
Social media platforms are simply websites that allow people to communicate informally with others through
Relating Effective Communication Techniques
to Public Relations and Marketing
BBA 2026, Organizational Communication 2
written messages, photographs, audio clips, or videos. Each social media platform offers unique opportunities
and challenges. Twitter is just one platform in a vast world of online media and offers a business almost
instant worldwide communication with customers and potential customers. This can allow for effective PR, but
it can also damage a company’s reputation just as quickly. For instance, KitchenAid posted a tweet about
President Obama’s grandmother during one of Obama’s debates. The tweet said that President Obama’s
grandmother had known his presidency was going to be bad and chose to die three days before he became
president. The tweet was quickly deleted, and KitchenAid issued an apology. Cynthia Soledad, a senior
member of the company, admitted that a junior staff member had been handling the company’s social media
accounts, and the sentiment was in no way representative of the values of the company.
KitchenAid tweets an apology.
(Allen, 2012)
The problem with using social media is that the information remains online—even if the company wants to
delete the message. Mistakes like this can very quickly circulate from person-to-person (known in popular
terminology as going viral) and damage a company’s PR image.
Trends in Social Media
In order to take advantage of the Internet, organizations also need to be aware of new trends. Whenever
companies develop new online platforms for communication and PR, marketing has to change. For example,
Twitter was created in 2006. Originally developed to send messages containing 140 characters or less to
registered users, the site evolved to adding promoted tweets and promoted accounts in 2010. In 2015,
promoted tweets are no longer limited to 140 characters. This platform changed, and the companies who use
it have to change as well.
The promoted accounts and promoted tweets move the platform away from the idea of pure PR and more into
the realm of advertising. This is another area that marketing departments need to consider. Advertising
pushes its point of view onto the consumer, basically saying the advertised aspect of the product is what
everyone should find important. PR takes the opposite point of view and focuses on the people who are
actually engaged in the discussion. PR does not fall under the same category as advertising, and when
companies pay to have their tweets promoted, it can seem disingenuous to the consumer.
Case Study: The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and the Dove Self-Esteem Project
One way that companies manage to promote their product through social media channels, including paid
placement in those channels, is to focus on outside social issues. The Dove beauty brand is a good example
of an organization that used a PR campaign on social media to advertise beauty products. The Dove
Campaign for Real Beauty started a global conversation through social media about creating a wider
definition of beauty after a major study, The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report, proved that the
current definition of beauty for women was limiting and unattainable (as cited in Dove, 2016). Beginning in
2004, Dove used various social media platforms to raise awareness of this issue (Dove, 2016).
First, Dove created an advertising campaign featuring real women whose appearances are outside the
stereotypical norms of beauty (Dove, 2016). The advertisements invited people to “vote” on the women’s level
of beauty at This blended approach featured a paid advertisement with PR at the
website. When the customers (and potential customers) visited the website to vote, Dove was not directly
selling its product. Instead, Dove was focused on boosting women’s self-confidence.
Each following year, Dove launched a new part to the campaign. One of the biggest successes occurred in
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