Public relations and advertising copywriting are closely related. Strategic communicators often decide between the two, but successful campaigns generally include both. The difference between the two is a matter of control, credibility and media use. If a company desires ultimate control of the message, wording, graphics and channels, advertising is the preferred technique. With advertising, emphasis is on control since this method allows you to select the audience, message and channel. With public relations, emphasis is placed on the credibility provided by having stories picked up by a third-party source. Public relations translate to forfeiting control of the MAC triad (message, audience and channel). There is risk associated with this method since you lose control of the message. You have no idea if the message will change, remain in-tact or if it’ll be covered at all.
In the PR Writer’s Toolbox (2013), we are provided with a quote from John Elsasser, Editor of PR Tactics, “Advertising is what you pay for, PR is what you pray for” (Basso, Hines and Fitzgerald, p. 140). Public Relations is usually thought of as unpaid and “earned” while advertising is “paid-for” publicity (139). PR writers use paid messages to advocate for a position. The common types of public relations advertising include advocacy / issue, cooperative, house, cause-related marketing (CRM), public service announcements (PSA) and institutional. With advocacy / issue, messages are used to take a position on an issue. Cooperatives feature collaborative messages that mutually benefit two or more companies. House messages are in-house. A common example is a television station playing commercials for network programming. CRM includes sponsorship and cases where a company aligns itself with a cause or issue impacting its demographic. PSA is publicity for public service / public good. Institutional refers to image ads for the company. These messages don’t promote a specific product or service, but rather the business as a whole.