The Top Seven Differences between Advertising and Public Relations Jobs

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Though both advertising and public relations professionals project the image of an organization to the outside world, their jobs are in fact very different. First, let's consider the definitions of advertising and public relations. Different sources have varied definitions for the two terms, but the following cover the basics:

  • Advertising is the practice of publicizing products or services through paid non-personal communication in order to persuade the public to take particular action.

  • Public relations is the science and practice of managing the internal and external communications of an organization in order to establish and maintain goodwill.


The above definitions outline the fundamentals of advertising and public relations. There are many specific differences between the two, however. The seven most important ones are listed below:

1. Paid vs. Free Publicity

In an advertising job your company pays for the space or time of the ad. In a public relations job you have to get free publicity for your organization through news conferences, press releases, etc.

2. Full Control vs. Little Control

In an advertising job you have virtually full control over the prepared message or data. Your paid advertisement will be published or played by the media in your desired form. In a public relations job your message may or may not be accepted by the media. You have little control over your message since the media is under no obligation to you.

3. Single Effort vs. Continued Effort

An advertisement may be printed in newspapers or played on television several times. A single effort in an advertising job may benefit the company for a longer period. In a public relations job a press release is circulated only once. Thus, you may have to continually make efforts to spread your message.

4. Creative vs. Communication Skills

In an advertising job creative skills are more important than communication skills. Creative advertisements are always needed for brand promotion. However, a public relations job requires excellent communication skills. Since public relations professionals are the links between their companies and the media, correct and proper communication is essential.

5. Directly vs. Indirectly Targeting Consumers

In an advertising job you are mostly directly targeting the consumer, whom you are asking to take action regarding your products or services. In a public relations job messages are directed to the media and may then be conveyed to consumers indirectly.

6. In-House vs. Roaming

An advertising job is mostly an in-house position where your interpersonal interaction is generally limited to the company’s employees and clients. A public relations job is usually an “out on the town” job. Public relations professionals may be required to host conferences out of their offices and interact with foreign media.

7. Informal vs. Formal Communication

In an advertising job you might use statements like “Act now!” and “Check out this new product!” Advertising professionals communicate their messages in an informal, more aggressive tone to sell their products or services. However, in a public relations job you formally communicate the organization’s message to the media or employees. Blunt or informal communication may be harmful to the company’s image.

The above points sum up how advertising jobs differ from public relations jobs. Though both professions have bright futures, according to the U.S. Department of Labor website, employment of public relations specialists is expected to grow by 18% from 2006 to 2016, faster than the average for all occupations.
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