Public relations (or PR) is not the same as advertising—but it is definitely a form of marketing. Many would even say it is a more effective form of marketing than advertising, if for no other reason than that it is typically considerably less expensive.
But the true power of PR comes from the credibility it creates for clients, something that most other forms of marketing cannot achieve. When people read media placements (such as articles, stories, and social media postings) about a company and its products and services, they tend to take the organization more seriously. What’s more, they tend to believe what they read, creating even more impact for the company in question.
Further, editorial media placements tend to have a greater shelf life than other forms of marketing. This is especially true now that most publications appear in both print and online forms.
Does this mean PR is “better” than advertising? The answer is complex. Some companies such as Wal-Mart, used only PR for marketing for many years before venturing into advertising. Others have gone back and forth, putting more emphasis on PR at times and then pulling back and placing more emphasis on advertising.
But most times, they work best together, especially when it comes to marketing a new product, PR and advertising actually complement each other. For example, Microsoft began advertising its Windows 95 product shortly before releasing it. However, as the initial advertising campaign subsided, PR efforts for the product expanded.
The combination of PR and advertising provided the carry-through that made Windows 95 so successful. In fact, this combination was so successful, the entire Windows 95 marketing program that Microsoft developed is now taught in many business schools around the world.