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PR and Advertising – Two Sides of a Coin

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PR and Advertising – Two Sides of a Coin

Edafe Onoriode
PR and Advertising - the spark youth empowerment platform in Nigeria

Are there any real differences between PR and advertising or it is a figment of our imagination?


By Edafe Onoriode

As communications professionals, sometimes we ask ourselves what exactly we do and how we fit into the ecosystem of PR and advertising.

I remember a few years ago, people would often ask me, ‘What kind of job do you do’? Excited, I would reply, ‘We help brands communicate’. The usual response I get is Oh, you are the guys who do the billboard ads’.

It is natural inclination for people to resonate better with visuals and creative elements rather than texts because the average person’s attention span is low, and people prefer to see visuals than read long articles to get a brand’s message.

The creatives will always win in this current era of media and information relay. The real question is, “How creative are you as a PR or advertising expert?”

Globally, we see that the industry is evolving, and very much at a rapid pace. Campaigns are flooding new media channels, consumer behavior is influenced, conversations are growing and content is trending.

In all of this excitement, not a lot of consumers pay attention to the gurus behind the clean creative campaign execution, whether PR or Advertising.

The objective is to showcase a brand or a product anyway, which is exactly what the communications experts have done.

I was reading up a list of some of the world’s most successful campaigns recently and all of these campaigns were listed as ‘PR’ campaigns.

Few minutes into looking up each content, I realized that most of the elements in these winning campaigns, are laced with advertising, marketing and creative content.

It makes me wonder if this distinction between PR and advertising, is a ‘Nigerian thing’ and a Nigerian  thing only. Why are these campaigns called ‘PR campaigns’?

When discussing PR and Advertising, it is difficult to put a distinction between the two because in the real sense, they really are just ‘two sides of the same coin’.

Public Relations professionals are essentially responsible for communicating a brands message to whoever cares to listen, using very targeted offline and online channels, tools, strategies and tactics.

The core of this function is to ensure that the messaging is consistent and relevant to consumers and the market you have targeted.

Then, for the folks who actually ‘do the billboard ads’, I like to call them the ‘executionists’ in Advertising.

The sole responsibility for advertising professionals is to get a brand’s message to the public, in the most effective, brief and creative way possible, using channels such as billboards, radio or TV ads, ground activations and most recently, social media.

One important fact however, is that in the effective execution of a brand’s campaign, different teams in PR, advertising, marketing, creatives, digital, etc. must come together to strategize and align best practices to make it work.

It is not a one-man army of advertising or PR practitioners only;  there is a high level of integration.

In PR, you will sometimes find clients who come to you with marketing and advertising briefs but need your strategy for execution.

How best can you achieve this? Pull in the overarching team, all hands on deck! While the advertising team focuses on developing the creative elements, PR on the other hand works on sustaining the narrative and driving content to everyone who needs to understand what your campaign is all about.

should be a collaborative approach.

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Let’s paint a picture – a juice company needs to launch a new product, specifically for health and fitness enthusiasts.

The objective is to ensure that more people are aware of this new product, to elicit buy in and to generate conversations both online and offline.

For a juice company, a consumer will be more interested in the unique benefits and aesthetics of this new product.

To get the messaging to this consumer and change buying behavior, you must rely heavily on PR content to address what makes this product unique.

One must always remember that people do not buy a product but its benefits.

To get into the minds of the consumer, invest in storytelling about this juice and go on and on about it. The beautiful and creative billboards and out of home ads, will help confirm consumers’ decisions  to buy this juice.

When driving content especially for small businesses who do not have the big budgets for campaign elements, good messaging and emotive marketing is just as effective.

In other words, use storytelling to sell your brand and stay away from generic content. Get your consumers to drive your narrative, personalize content to get them close.

In my organization Hill+Knowlton Strategies, we call ourselves masters of storytelling, because that’s what we do. Whether Advertising or PR, we find the right balance to continue telling client’s stories.

At the end of the day, the goal is to drive value for businesses using communications, even though they are two sides of the same coin.

Editorial Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.

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