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PR Vs. Advertising & the Rise of Corporate Social Responsibility

Both Public Relations & advertising are cogs in the marketing wheel and are tools to increase brand awareness amongst target audiences, however, they’re viewed quite differently for the customer.

PR is a form of third party (media) endorsement, meaning it is viewed with a higher degree of credibility, this is called ‘earned’ media and is generally to increase trust in a brand and build a reputation. A paid advert can look powerful, high profile and is known as ‘paid’ media, this is generally to increase sales for a brand and focuses on a particular product or service.

If you’ve got the marketing budget and spend allocation for both – great! But if you’ve got a budget for only one, you have to make a decision on what’s going to look better in the eyes of your customer.

Delving into the differences a little further, you have control over almost everything to do with an advert you pay for; where it’s placed, what it looks like, key messaging and when it’s published.  PR is more of an art than a science.  You’re working with an unknown, the media decides if they’re going to run your story, what they choose to say or not say and when it gets published.

Adverts are used for short term gains such as promoting a new product, getting people to buy and touchpoints to get to know a brand. In contrast,  PR builds a reputation that’s more sustainable as the content is more meaningful, being written by a trusted media publication, not just ‘paid for’ and targeted well.

Social media advertising has certainly changed the game in the current era, where for a minimal cost you can appear in front of a well-targeted and clearly defined audience to appear higher in a consumer’s news feed and expose your brand to new audiences beyond your current fan base.

However, as of July 2020, Facebook will be faced with its highest ever advertiser boycott over the dissemination of misinformation and hate posts that have been boosted and promoted in the USA.

According to The Guardian, Joy Howard, CMO of the password manager Dashlane, one of the participants in the boycott, said: “Facebook is not committed to change. They will only say what money makes them say. It’s time for us to put our money where their mouth is.”

You must remember that consumers are well aware your brand has paid for that advert to appear in front of them and it isn’t always well received. People feel funny towards adverts that pop up on their feeds when they’ve just been talking about a certain product and not many people enjoy watching TV adverts these days. More often than not,  consumers care about what your brand has to say, how they engage with their communities and what they stand for rather than how much money they’ve paid to appear in front of them. This shift in consumer attitude helped to bring about the rise of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or various other terms such as ‘Corporate Accountability’ or ‘Corporate Sustainability’ and ‘Corporate Citizenship’ are concepts a brand commits to manage and take responsibility for not only the economic consequences of their activities but for the social, environmental implications too. Examples include companies working with partners that follow ethical business practices, investing in health, safety or environmental programs, supporting charities amongst communities where the business operates and promoting equal opportunities for all at an executive level e.g. gender equality, diversity and inclusivity

If you were to ask us which we’d recommend, we’d say PR. Why? Because reading a brand in a conversation is similar to word of mouth selling, it’s a consumer reading a conversation about your brand as opposed to just looking at an advert that says ‘look at me’. In our eyes, PR can seem like a  gamble but the bigger the risk, the higher the return!