Blurred Lines

Before you think I might begin to discuss the chart single by Robin Thicke, I am not. More importantly this blog will look closer at the looming similarities between PR and advertising.

Katy2

It is not unknown to most of us that PR is changing. With change comes challenges and with challenges comes opportunities. However, there are many critical perspectives and views on PR today.

PR traditionally, was nothing like it is now. There was less competition, technology hadn’t fully grasped people’s attention and the public didn’t ‘notice’ just quite as much as now.

With the evolution of a ‘digital era’ this has helped ‘blur’ the lines between advertising and PR. I am not a professional PR practitioner and this is becoming increasingly obvious, even to me.

Originally, advertising had the role of gaining sales through adverts. PR aimed to generate exposure through media outlets.

Now, can we notice the difference?

Whilst advertising and PR have merged over the years, some may argue there is still significance to both industries. To me, I can still see a huge gap. I think PR is about maintaining and establishing good will and advertising is still focused on sales. Critically, both PR and advertising are becoming obsessed with reputation and the public’s acceptance.

We have to question, is this hazy view because of the Internet?

Katy1Model cited by Gini Dietrich

Above shows the PESO model, illustrated by Gini Dietrich. With the continuous interception, this highlights the specific roles. Communication lines are becoming blurred due to a knock on effect from digital media. PESO typically helps describe the blend by looking deeper into four types of media and how they overlap.

  1. Paid media – This is something most of us value. (I know I do) It is a form of advertising. Traditionally, advertisers pay for media outlets, such as outdoor advertising. Today influencer’s influence through sponsored ads. In PR, this is paid media.

 

  1. Earned Media – ‘Free media’ is another term used to describe this form of media. This is an ancient concept of PR that can be formed through word of mouth, great SEO, news articles or third party endorsement. As some would say ‘you need to be a friend, to earn a friend’.

 

  1. Owned Media – Communication channels that are in ones control. With the involvement of a digital age, this comprises the majority of the Internet. Mediums such as blogs, websites and email contribute. Owned media, is not necessarily promotional, but to uphold the reputation you want to portray.

 

  1. Shared Media – Shared media has been made widely available through the use of social media. Thus the public can speak freely about brands and organisations, allowing for user generated content. (Sometimes not always a good thing) From a PR perspective, this entitles the PR practitioner to speak directly to an audience without the use of a media organisation. Therefore…

Is PR taking away from the point of advertising?

According to PR Daily, ‘the PR industry looks an awful lot like advertising’. Some will argue this is true; the media outlet is removed therefore some would call this direly selling. Is this classified as PR-ing, or advertising?

However, some will disagree by going back to basics. PR incorporates validation, the more validity it receives then the more it is desired. Again going back to the definition at the beginning, PR is more focused on reinforcing good will between an organisation and its publics.

Advertising is paid media

Public Relations is earned media

Do you agree?

With the proliferation of user-generated content across the web, it reinforces the need for a ‘credible’ source of information in today’s society. Advertisements may be eye catching, however, the public are aware these are in place to SELL. Public relations involve two-way communication strategies; some may think a more democratic outlook. Public relations encourages ‘free coverage’ and real life recommendations which consumers value.

So which do you choose?

Both.

Advertising and PR combined work as a great team. Whether the lines have been blurred into one or you advocate separate entities, incorporating all aspects at the right time, work.

“Advertising is what you pay for, publicity is what you pray for!”

Katy McGuigan is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. You can reach her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/katymcguigan1/ and on Twitter @KatyMcGuigan2.