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How Public Relations is Different from Advertising

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  • 0:05 Public Relations and…
  • 2:03 Public Relations Goals…
  • 2:58 Example of Public Relations
  • 4:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kelly Roach

Kelly earned her Master of Mass Communication from Arizona State and has taught consumer behavior and communication courses at the undergraduate level.

Public relations helps companies build more personal relationships with their customers using advertising messages as their foundation. Watch this video to see how public relations creates positive images for companies and products.

Public Relations and Advertising

Of the four Ps of marketing - product, price, promotion and place - several activities make up the promotion P of the marketing mix: advertising, sales promotion, personal selling and public relations. Of these activities, advertising and public relations make up a significant part of the promotional marketing efforts.

Advertising is an impersonal mass communication about a product or service paid for by the marketer. Public relations is the element in the promotional mix that evaluates public attitudes, identifies issues that may elicit public concern and executes programs and acceptance. While advertising is a one-way, impersonal message paid for by a marketer, public relations focuses more on feedback and the public response.

Here's an example to understand the difference between advertising and public relations. Advertising is a lot like taking a huge, 600-student Intro to Economics course your freshman year of college. You sit and listen to the professor, take notes and try to absorb the information, but the chances of him or her noticing when you don't understand something or stopping to answer a question from the back row are pretty slim.

Advertising is one-way communication with consumers while PR is more interactive.
Advertising vs Public Relations

On the other hand, public relations is more like a lab session that goes along with the economics course. With only twenty other students, your teaching assistant can easily read the body language of everyone in the class, making him or her able to catch on when students don't understand. When they see puzzled faces, they can try to solve the problem by explaining something in a new way or answering questions. They also serve as a type of representative for the professor, reinforcing their messages and doing their best to ensure you're happy with your performance in the class.

So, if advertising is the primary message sent to potential consumers to persuade them, public relations is the response to customer feedback and is an attempt to build a more personal relationship with consumers.

Public Relations Goals and Functions

The main goal of public relations is to create a positive image of a company or product. There are several functions used in public relations to help create this positive image, including sponsorship, consumer education, new product publicity, product placement and the Internet and social media. Be sure to check out the next lesson on reasons companies use public relations to see these functions in action.

All of these functions have the goal of getting the company's name out to the public while generating as much goodwill, or positive feelings about the company or product, as possible. This goodwill is most often created by developing a more personal and positive relationship with customers or potential customers by measuring the public's response to the company or product, responding to any negative issues that arise and maintaining a positive presence that reinforces advertising messages.

Example of Public Relations

Sometimes companies encounter crisis situations, or negative issues that can cast a bad light on their brand or product. When this happens, public relations can either make or break a company's reputation.

One example of a company using public relations to save the day is Johnson & Johnson and the 1982 Tylenol crisis. In September of 1982, seven people died after taking Extra Strength Tylenol that had been laced with cyanide. Johnson & Johnson immediately sprang into action, taking full responsibility for the issue even though they were soon cleared of any involvement with the tampering. As they sorted out the problem, they diligently worked to keep the public informed.

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