PR Vs. Advertising

So, how is advertising different from PR? You both get stuff in magazines right? Wrong. There are fundamental differences.

Advertising PR
Paid for Not paid for
Guaranteed (because you’ve paid for the space!) No guarantee
No contact with journalists, only the promotions or ad teams All editorial (journalist) led
Copy and image written and provided by brand Copy and image (if you’re lucky) written and selected by the editorial team
Copy and layout approval No approval given
Not always genuine or ‘believable’ Viewed as an endorsement by the magazine and/or editorial staff

Editorial is free space in magazines but Clients pay a PR for their time to create ideas and then convert those ideas into coverage. So whilst the space is free, the time it takes to get that free space isn’t. Consider this;

  • Every piece of coverage can take on average around three phone calls and numerous e-mails to place
  • You can assume for every ‘yes’, there will be 10 ‘no’s’ – it’s a time-consuming business
  • PR’s never actually know if they have succeeded until the magazine is on the shelf and they see the coverage inside!

You can usually spot a PR story a mile off, if you know the tricks of the trade. This goes back to ‘packaging’. Or how the PR will tell your story to the media. Here are some classic PR story angles and tactics:

  • Innovation (we’ve created the first ever…)
  • Expense (XYZ brand has launched the most expensive tea bag/biscuit/piece of toast…)
  • Designed by (designer or celebrity collaborations such as Liberty and Marc Jacobs/Diet Coke and Karl Largerfeld etc)
  • The face or body of… (usually a celebrity face of a brand)
  • Social or cultural commentary from a brand (e.g. 8.21am on  a Monday is the worst time of the week…)
  • Company news (this could be an anniversary, new Managing Director, new stores opened…)
  • The good old survey (88% of UK women hate filling in surveys, says XYZ brand)
  • Product placement (getting your product on the same page as other similar ones… a sewing kit round-up for example)
  • Branded feature (which usually includes brand photography, brand ambassadors and experts and an interview)
  • Events  (this could be a store opening day or a fancy launch party with famous guests)
  • Thought leadership (what do you know about your industry that you can share with others?)

Is there anything you’d like to know about PR, writing or social media copy and content? Drop me a line in the comments below and I’ll write a post on it.


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