Why Your Dollars Should Go to Public Relations Versus Advertising

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First off, let’s start by understanding the fundamental differences between public relations and advertising.

Public relations is a strategic communication process in which an organization maintains and builds mutually beneficial relationships with their publics. This is done through various methods such as storytelling in writing (press releases), planning events for campaigns and pitching newsworthy stories to media.

Advertising is the act of producing information in order to promote the sale of commercial products or services. People in advertising accomplish this by developing advertising campaigns through creative graphics, videos and written scripts. Strategic planning is also necessary in order to understand how the product will be advertised to the target audience.



Now that we have differentiated between the two, let’s get into the cost of each.

Public Relations: Depending on the public relations agency, there are a few different methods in which they charge clients. It can range from an hourly rate, pay for performance, flat fees or a monthly retainer. The agency and your company will work together to figure out what fees fit your needs best, based on your public relation goals.

According to, “Boutique PR agencies are the ones that charge the lowest retainers, usually ranging between $2000 and $5000 in the United States. Retainer fees for startups tend to range between $5000 and $10000. And big names in the PR agencies world have retainers starting at $20000 per month.”

Furthermore, on average, the hourly cost of a public relations firm is typically between $150-250 per hour. These rates fluctuate depending on the size of the firm as well as your needs.

Advertising: Just like public relations, the average advertising agency operates with the same pricing structure. Since they are closely related, sometimes you will find that public relations and advertising are combined into the same department.

As reported by, “A good, experienced, professional advertising agency in a medium to large market is going to have a blended rate between $100 and $200 per hour.” These price ranges also fluctuate based on which market your business is in and the size of the ad agency.


What does this mean?

As you have seen above, on average, public relations and advertising have the same price range. You can either choose one or the other. This is why it is important to know the value of what you are paying for. Below I will list three reasons why public relations is the obvious choice.

Public Relations > Advertising


1. Yellow Pages and Commercials Are Ancient: If your business is still investing in putting ads into places such as the Yellow Pages or even the newspaper, stop now. When was the last time you or anyone you know buy a product or service because of an ad you read or saw on TV? Before the internet, it was easy to persuade the public with quirky ads.

With the transparency that review sites and social media have given us, it is safe to assume that ads are slowly on the decline. Building relationships with your customers is critical to your success. This is why public relations is so important in today’s world. Your audiences will not be easily fooled to do business with you through advertisements anymore. In contrast, you will need to be active on social media, strategically plan events tailored to your audience and do your research on what your customers need. This call all be done through the work of a public relations agency or even hiring an in-house PR specialist who can organize and develop a comprehensive plan.


2. Paid vs. Earned Advertising: In advertising, everything that is published in a newspaper, heard on the radio and aired on television is paid for by the agency. The script that is read is strategically written to persuade the audience to buy the product or service. Knowing this, audiences are already skeptical because they know you are trying to sell them something.

In contrast, public relations pitches press releases, television segments and radio time. There is never a guarantee whether or not you will be awarded press coverage. For example, when somebody sees a segment on TV about an upcoming event in the local area, they are seeing something that was not paid for. This is why it is called earned media. In this case, the public relations strategy has more credibility than a paid advertisement.


3. Online Exposure: If you are paying advertising spots on media, it only lasts for that time frame. Ads can continue to run, but they will lose their value quickly as time passes. With public relations practices, a business can increase their search engine optimization (SEO) online through strategic linking of online networks and earned media. These results are organically put at the top of search engines, which will help fill the first page of the Google search. Advertising can offer some of the same SEO, but it will cost more and it will indicate that it is a paid advertisement.





Chris Villarreal

Written by Chris Villarreal

Chris Villarreal is an experienced public relations professional with expertise in social media management, public relations practices and media relations. Born and raised in San Pedro, he moved to San Diego to pursue his passion as a writer. Initially a journalism major, he found an interest in the public relations field after taking an introductory course his first year. He loved the opportunity to get creative and use storytelling to tell client’s stories. He began volunteering his time as a social media specialist for Albanian Voices, a non-profit organization that preserves Albanian history and tradition by documenting Albanian Americans’ stories. His duties included advising staff about scheduling times, interacting with the online community, posting relevant content relating to Albanians and suggesting strategies that would expand the variety of content posted. In January 2016, he began working at SpearHall Advertising&PR as a public relations intern and account coordinator for Golf Fest. His duties include managing all social media activity for Golf Fest accounts, pitching clients stories to media, drafting press releases, creating media lists and coordinating speaking engagements for clients. Chris is bilingual in Spanish and enjoys traveling to Mexico City to visit his family. He recently finished his B.A. in journalism with an emphasis in public relations at San Diego State.

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