Is social media blurring the lines between PR and advertising?

1 Oct

ImageWe who study/ work in PR know that there has always been a distinct line between the two occupations. However, with the growth of social media is it getting more and more difficult to see which campaigns that are ruled out by advertisers, and which that is made by PR practitioners?

Firstly, let me give you a brief description of the difference between PR and advertising: advertising is the creation of paid announcements that are promoted through different types of media, including traditional and online channels. PR, on the other hand, is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and the public (PR Sydney, 2012).

Todd Defren from the blog PR Squared has a very interesting view of the relationship between the two disciplines and social media. He thinks that we can use an awareness scale (see picture) to see how these fit together in an ideal way.

He means that a social media campaign from either an advertising or PR agency can consist of both advertising and PR: the PR part can build credibility between the brand and the public, while the advertising part can consist of capturing the consumers attention and reinforce their perception of the brand.

Just take a look at the viral campaign ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ made for Metro Trains in Melbourne Australia. The campaign was made by McCann Melbourne which is an advertising agency, but could easily be seen as a PR campaign with the aim of changing the audience perception of how to act around trains. The campaign consisted of a viral video, social media tactics, a song that you can download on iTunes++. The campaign ticked both PR and advertising boxes: it is a paid campaign shared online and in traditional media, but it also helped build a relationship between the organization and its publics as it was funny, people shared it/liked it and they understood the message that was being sent out.

How do you see the campaign? Does it consist of a mix of advertising and PR tactics? Is social media going to bring the two disciplines even further together in the future?


Image in courtesy of: Todd Defren, PR Squared

Video in courtesy of: YouTube, Metro Trains Melbourne


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