Michael D. Driscoll
application of public relations
and the use of advertising are
sometimes misunderstood, igniting
a series of unanswered questions for
companies needing to create
awareness for themselves.
When do you use public relations?
Why should you advertise? The best
answer on both topics is, "It
depends on what you're trying to
accomplish." Use public
relations and advertising (and
marketing) together as well as
separately when the situation
calls for it.
Still confused? Don't fret. You're
in good company.
A distinct difference between PR
and advertising is their extent of
message control. When, where, and
how an advertisement runs is quite
controllable. Ad space purchased
in the right format (i.e.
broadcast, radio, print, online,
sky writing, floating barge) means
one has inherent control over what
messages are communicated.
Conversely, while the process of
creating messages through public
relations is controllable, what
occurs after the message has left
the "nest" is often
uncontrollable. The most common
uncontrollable factor is whether
the media view your information as
newsworthy. In advertising there
is no question whether your
information will be publicized --
if the check cleared, you're in.
I know what you're thinking. You
want control of the message from
beginning to end so you've decided
that advertising is the way to go.
Have you thought about the current
shelf life of an advertisement?
What about implied endorsement? Costs?
Life: TV Commercials and the Press
Until recently, TV advertisements
have had a shorter shelf life than
a press release archived on the
Internet. For now this is probably
still true, but watch out. New Web
sites are coming online with
nothing but commercial content
that would make any ad executive
smile. Corporations are also
posting their commercials on
corporate Web sites to extend the
shelf life of their ad dollars.
Obstacles to viewing archived
commercials are many. The more
common ones include slow Internet
connections, lack of installed
software for viewing, and unless
there is an HTML description about
the commercial for search engines
to archive, add inability to find
a commercial online to the list of
obstacles. These barriers are
coming down quickly as technology
and computer training improves.
Archived press releases and news
articles still rank high in terms
of Internet longevity. Search
engines can locate information
(even in PDF format for some) long
after the hype of a press release
has waned. The major obstacle
here is a person without access to
No matter how interesting an
advertisement might be, it is
recognized as a self-serving
communication. The only
implication here is that someone
paid to have a message filtered
directly to a consumer. There
is no third-party endorsement, no
filter before it reaches you.
Public relations affords the
credibility of indirect
third-party endorsements. This
means you are not paying to get
advertising placed, but a
publication is freely giving space
to a story about your company. An
endorsement such as this is a
powerful tool in shaping public
Consumers today are far more
cynical than previous generations,
with only a small percent saying
they have a great deal of
confidence in advertising
messages. Anyone can buy
visibility, however PR plays a
critical role in sorting out the
Advertising exposure is often
proportional to the amount of
money spent on the advertisement.
Whether your ad sits on a
billboard overlooking the highway
or plays during prime time
television, advertising will
consume your budget faster than a
For small companies, public
relations is the better method for
direct and personal communication
with a target audience. For
larger companies with a sufficient
budget, advertising along with
public relations may be the right
combination for success.
D. Driscoll is a public relations manager in the non-profit sector.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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