Advertising and Marketing

PR & Advertising: How They Work Together

By Mckayla White on March 11, 2024

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Brands are everywhere; some you love, some you hate, and some you feel indifferent about. But why is that? What makes you remember some and forget others? Well, the answer is simple – PR and advertising. They are why brands resonate and stay with you or do the exact opposite. PR and advertising are two very different strategies that, when used together, prove to be more effective. 

The Basics

Before examining their collaboration, it’s important to understand the fundamental differences between PR and advertising. As I examined last month in PR & Advertising: What’s the Difference?, PR is strategic communication between the public and the client. The client could be a person, brand, organization, etcetera. PR focuses on managing the relationship and building a positive reputation. While advertising is paid promotion to communicate a specific message to the public, this comes in full campaigns, posters, influencer marketing, etcetera. We know PR and advertising are different while sharing similarities. But how do they work together? And why are they more powerful together?

The Synergy 

PR and advertising are almost always used together; this is no coincidence and is one of the most powerful marketing tactics. Contrary to popular belief, PR is very involved with advertising and can lead an integrated marketing campaign. A seamless merge between PR and advertising allows for the creation of more compelling and comprehensive storytelling and branding. When the two align, the audience feels more informed, connected, and cared for, thus making any communication, whether from a PR or advertising perspective, more effective. When PR and advertising are strategically used well together, it tells the audience not to worry because we’ve got you. 

Unified and Amplified Messages

PR and advertising revolve around strong messaging and intent to influence the audience. Unsurprisingly, when PR and advertising goals align, the message becomes stronger, and the public is more likely to believe it. 

Take Fenty Beauty, for example. Fenty Beauty, a trailblazer for inclusivity, was created by the singer Rihanna for everyone. It uses PR and advertising to its advantage to promote its message and brand to the world. Advertising was used to promote its launch and impressive foundation shade range. In contrast, PR was used to further the discussion of inclusivity in the beauty industry and praise Fenty Beauty and Rihanna for being one of the first brands to have such an inclusive shade range, thus setting a new beauty standard. PR and advertising efforts were used to promote the products and strengthen the brand identity, making the message stronger and heard by the masses. This intentional alignment of PR and advertising goals wasn’t just about conveying a message but about fortifying it. Had Fenty Beauty promoted the foundation line without PR messaging about the extensive shade range and its importance or released PR communication about shade ranges and inclusivity without promoting their extensive foundation line, the message would not have been so widely accepted. When PR and advertising have similar messages, which they usually do, and are strategically used together, they can reinforce the message, which increases awareness and understanding. 

Credibility

An effective collaboration between PR and advertising is about more than just promotion; it is also about building credibility. Advertising makes a claim, and PR backs it up and provides proof so the audience won’t even question the claim. Through this process, trust is built among the audience because there is proof; thus, credibility is created and maintained. Let’s look at an example of advertising that usually leaves the audience questioning the intention but is backed up with PR.

This can be seen through Patagonia’s Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign. Patagonia is a sustainable clothing brand that heavily focuses on activism and the environment. In 2011, Patagonia launched the Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign for Black Friday. Rather than advertising their products and consumerism, like every other brand, they did the exact opposite. They launched an anti-consumerism campaign, urging consumers to think twice before purchasing a product because they felt it was hypocritical for them to encourage mindless shopping while fighting for environmental change. Not only was Patagonia able to use PR to promote its environmental efforts and core values to its consumers, but the campaign garnered a lot of press because the ad questioned what is expected of clothing brands and the public, ultimately building the trust and giving Patagonia credibility in the eye of the consumer. This was effective because it went against the grain; brands are supposed to tell you to buy their products, but Patagonia didn’t do that; they promoted a cause they believed in. As a result, the public thought positively of Patagonia, and they ultimately gained brand loyalty because they showed that they were not in it for the money, which is hard to come by these days. When PR and advertising join forces, they do more than just marketing; they create credibility. 

Connection

As we just established, the strategic use of PR and advertising amplifies messages. It builds credibility, which is then able to translate into a connection between the audience and the brand. When messages are supported and a brand is recognized as credible, the public tends to let their guard down. This subtle shift paves the way for a more personal connection, seamlessly integrating the key messages into the audience’s beliefs. Additionally, by being connected, brands nurture their ability to build stories, create more awareness, establish comprehensive branding, and improve customer experience. 

Nike’s collaboration with Colin Kaepernick goes beyond the conventional narratives of sportswear promotion; it unveils an emotional connection forged through the strategic alignment of PR and advertising. American football player Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racism in the United States of America. Kaepernick received both support and criticism and was ultimately not picked up again after the season. Seven years later, Kaepernick still remains unsigned. Nike’s Dream Crazy campaign with Kaepernick went beyond just advertising. It spoke to the experience of Black Americans and the injustices they face. Nike used the controversial moment to promote themselves, establish branding, and share core values while supporting Kaepernick and strategically using the press to their advantage. The public reacted strongly to this campaign as Nike was the first big company to support Kaepernick and use him as the face of their campaign. Unsurprisingly, this decision garnered a lot of press. By using PR and advertising to support Kaepernick and Black Lives, Nike was able to make a stance and show the public who they are and what they stand for. This enabled consumers to connect to the story, whether because it is relatable or outrageous to them. This campaign had a strong reaction because people could connect to it, and the connection formed was more than transactional. When consumers choose Nike, they align themselves with a brand that stands for social justice and individual expression. The strategic alignment of PR and advertising transforms Nike into a symbol of empowerment, encouraging the public to embrace their values and advocate for change.

To Make a Long Story Short… 

PR and advertising are the perfect duo because they can complement each other’s strengths and minimize each other’s weaknesses, meaning they grow stronger when used well together. PR and advertising are not just tools for marketers to build profit but also tools that give them exclusive access to the hearts and minds of the audience.

They are why we connect with and trust some brands more than others—in the end, it’s about the stories that resonate with us.

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