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Advertising versus Public Relations

Book marketing brings about many important and sometimes difficult choices for an author. Send a press release? Wait for an interview on a local TV show or create your own TV commercial? These questions boil down to two processes every marketer should know like the back of his or her hand: advertising and public relations (PR). Although many believe these words mean the same thing, in truth they are as different as night and day. Understanding what makes them different is the key to successful book marketing.


Before detailing the differences between advertising and PR, we’ll give an overview of what the words mean. Advertising is the paid use of a controlled medium to persuade an audience to purchase a product. It can be a TV commercial, a pop-up ad on the Internet, a paid advertisement spot on a radio show, or a product placement in a movie. Public relations manages the relationship between a brand—or book—and its target audience. Often, PR can result in newspaper reviews, radio and TV interviews, or magazines articles. Public relations and advertising are both important to any marketing plan.

Total Control vs. Limited Control

Advertising is often attractive because it gives total control to you, the marketer. You can decide what it says, who says it, and how it looks. It is guaranteed that your public will see nothing negative about your book in your advertisement. PR doesn’t provide that luxury. PR involves a third party publicizing your book as they see fit. They can give a poor review or mention you in a poor light if they choose to do so.

More importantly, in PR, you cannot choose when and if your book is publicized. Media will mention it when they wish. You can help this process along by writing a good press release and building a good relationship with local media, but the choice is ultimately up to them. However, advertising provides publicity whenever you want it.

Expensive vs. Cost-effective

As advertising provides ultimate control, it also provides an ultimate price-tag. TV commercials can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Space in a newspaper or magazine doesn’t come cheap, either. However, paying a hefty price for complete control of an advertisement is a trade many marketers are willing to take.

Public relations is a reliable alternative to advertising expenses. As the third party decides whether or not to promote your product, the publicity is free for you. The old quote, “Advertising you pay for, PR you pray for,” clearly rings true.

Skepticism vs. Credibility

Newspaper readers, blog followers, morning news watchers, and radio listeners alike have developed a trust to the media that give them their daily information. Blogs and news shows that are trusted by their readers and audiences can provide a platform for publicity unlike anything that can be offered in advertising.

In today’s world, advertisements are sometimes seen as annoyances. Most people know when they are being exposed to advertisements. As a society, we have become accustomed to being advertised to, and, as a result, we pay little attention to some advertising media. Still, advertisements still have the ability to capture our attention, inform us, and persuade us, as long as they are targeted correctly.

Audience vs. Editor

Successful advertising is targeted at the people who need or want your product the most. The reader must always be kept in mind. If you are marketing a children’s book, think about advertising to families and children. Do your best to match that in the advertisement.

When getting materials together for a PR media campaign, you must consider the editors and producers. These are the gate-keepers; they decide who to publicize and who not to publicize. Often, the publicity of your book relies on a “hook.” Why would your book be important to their audience? They may be interested if your book is about a local landmark, relates to an upcoming holiday, or features a local hero. Your press release can convince them that your book is worth mentioning on their program.

AuthorHouse provides advertising services, publicity services and publicity campaigns to give you more options when creating your marketing plan.