Advertising and PR can you tell the difference?

Time was when ads were ads and editorial was editorial and they were clearly different. In my terms: advertising is shouting, PR is having a conversation. Interestingly, the professional associations for the two disciplines have different ways of defining them.

The CIPR is very clear. PR is about protecting and enhancing reputation and the Institution is not going to suggest how you do this.

The IPA, on the other hand, is much less clear, focusing on process and acknowledging that the discipline is changing to embrace tactics such as engagement, persuasion, discussion. A bit like PR then?

If the Association itself can't succinctly define what it's about, then the profession might just be in trouble.

This is surely not surprising given that traditional advertising works by interrupting the reader and grabbing their attention when they're actually reading something else. Trade publications work by providing the reader with engaging editorial, punctuated by ads that they didn't ask for.

That model breaks down when all information is available on demand via the internet and readers choose precisely what content they read. In a world of user-defined content the only way to get your message across is to understand what really interests your audience and give them that - engaging, useful and relevant content.

And that's where we come in. PR agencies have always specialised in content creation. Now is the time when that content is becoming more valuable than ever. We have a range of new distribution channels to use: social media, SEO, directly delivered content and, best of all, we now have the analytics to measure exactly who is reading it and what they are doing next.

And that degree of measurability leaves advertising budgets very exposed. It used to be recognised that half an advertising budget is wasted - you just don't know which half. You do now.

Posted by Anna Hern