Advertising vs. Public Relations: What’s the Difference?

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Advertising vs. Public Relations: What’s the Difference?
portrait of Staff Writers
by Staff Writers
Published on November 18, 2021

Advertising and public relations fall under the marketing career category. With savvier consumers and influencers, businesses need more marketing professionals than ever.

These professionals work together to promote a company or organization in different ways. Advertising involves paid promotions. Public relations relies primarily on unpaid methods. They both represent a brand or organization to the public. Advertising and public relations professionals collaborate with writers, photographers, and graphic designers.

In this guide, we examine the pros and cons of advertising vs. public relations. We also highlight the career and salary outlook for advertising jobs and public relations jobs.

What's the Difference Between Advertising and Public Relations?

Advertising professionals oversee an advertising budget and pay for media placement. They work with influencers to put social media campaigns in place and buy commercial and print ad space. They persuade customers to buy a product or service through messaging.

Public relations professionals also try to persuade customers to take action. This action may be to volunteer at an organization, donate money, or buy a product. However, they rely more on unpaid media placement. They form relationships with media professionals and communicate news to them. These reporters may run a story based on information from public relations professionals.

Advertising professionals aim to build awareness, while public relations professionals aim to build trust. Advertising managers introduce a brand to the public. Public relations managers help personify a brand and form a trustworthy image.

Advertising Pros and Cons

Pros

Advertising leads often funnel directly into sales, which makes accomplishments measurable. Advertising departments typically receive larger budgets than public relations departments. These professionals usually earn more than public relations professionals.

Cons

Advertising funnels into sales, making failures measurable. Audiences may feel burnt out from seeing traditional advertisements every day. Increasing advertising costs makes working with small budgets difficult.

Public Relations Pros and Cons

Pros

With multiple types of job responsibilities, days don't seem monotonous. There are opportunities to develop many skill sets. These professionals can work in nearly any type of industry.

Cons

Performing a wide range of tasks may feel overwhelming. There's less opportunity to become an expert in one subject. Public relations managers tend to earn less than advertising managers.

What Degree Do I Need to Work in Advertising?

To work in advertising, individuals typically need at least a bachelor's degree. Higher-paying positions like directing and management jobs often require an advanced advertising degree. Most companies hire workers with a degree in an advertising-related field.

Common degrees for advertising professionals include advertising, marketing, or public relations. Aside from a degree, presenting a good portfolio also can be important.

Marketing professionals don't need certifications or licenses to practice. Yet, they may become more hireable with them. For example, marketing professionals who earn a Google Analytics IQ certification can show that they know how to use Google ads.

What Degree Do I Need to Work in Public Relations?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public relations managers and specialists need at least a bachelor's degree. These professionals typically hold communications or public relations degrees. However, many companies hire professionals for public relations roles with any marketing-related degree. Advanced positions may require a master's degree.

This career doesn't require licensure. Yet, public relations professionals can earn certification to show expertise. The Public Relations Society of America offers an Accreditation in Public Relations credential.

Nearly every industry hires qualified public relations professionals. Learners can choose a minor or concentration to form a niche. For example, students who want to work for a nonprofit can choose a public relations degree with a nonprofit concentration.

Career and Salary Outlook for Advertising and Public Relations

The BLS projects jobs for public relations and fundraising managers will increase by 13% between 2020 and 2030. During that same period, jobs for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers are projected to grow by 10%. These outpace the 8% job growth projection for all U.S. occupations.

Public relations managers and marketing managers earn a similar income. According to the BLS, public relations managers earn a median annual income of $118,430, as of May 2020. Advertising managers earn a median income of $141,490.

Years of experience, geographical location, and employer type can all affect salary. An entry-level public relations specialist may earn less than an experienced marketing manager. Additionally, people working at big-city corporations may earn more than those working at rural nonprofits.

Advertising Careers

Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers

These managers plan promotional campaigns. They use advertising tools like giveaways, commercials, and social media posts to spread awareness about a product or service. People working in this role oversee other professionals like graphic designers and copywriters. They strategically evaluate a company's advertising materials like websites and commercials.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $141,490


Market Research Analysts

These professionals identify target audiences for campaigns and gather data through surveys. Market research analysts study consumer trends and use software to analyze statistical data. They pass on their findings to marketing professionals to create effective advertisements. Projected job growth for these workers is 22% between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS. This is much faster than the average projected job growth for all U.S. occupations during that time.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $65,810


Advertising Sales Agents

Advertising sales agents work with advertising firms to gain new clients. They reach out to other businesses to offer marketing services on behalf of the organization. These professionals prepare presentations for current and potential clients to market new services or proposed campaigns. The BLS projects jobs for advertising sales agents will grow by 3% between 2020 and 2030.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $54,940


Sales Managers

These professionals work to motivate an entire sales team to meet monetary goals. They create plans for making sales, like cold calls and business visits. They analyze statistics to evaluate the effectiveness of sales efforts. Jobs for sales managers are projected to grow by 7% between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $132,290


Public Relations Careers

Public Relations Specialists

People working in this role assist managers with forming a positive public image for a company. They send press releases, openly communicate with the public, and plan promotional events. Some public relations specialists work for an individual, like a politician. They may also coach company executives on best practices for media interviews. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals will grow by 11% from 2020-2030.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $62,810


Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

These managers oversee community relations for businesses and nonprofits. They manage relationships with important stakeholders, like investors, donors, customers, and volunteers. Public relations and fundraising managers write community newsletters, maintain media relations, and plan events. They also work closely with social media managers, photographers, and graphic designers.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $118,430


Fundraisers

Fundraisers work with nonprofits and organizations like schools to collect money for a cause. Often, they host events to raise funds. They may also facilitate campaigns through social media or marketing efforts. Some fundraisers work as consultants for large organizations. They work to perfect messaging to effectively motivate people to donate. The BLS projects that jobs for fundraisers will grow by 16% between 2020 and 2030.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $59,610


Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners

These professionals coordinate celebrations and business events. They set up a timeline for event planning, delegate tasks, and create budgets. Event planners communicate with vendors like caterers and florists to get bids. They also oversee an event's promotion and inform potential guests. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals will grow 18% from 2020-2030.

Median Annual Salary (as of May 2020): $51,560


Advertising vs. Public Relations: Which Is Right for Me?

These industries involve similar knowledge and skill sets. So choosing between advertising and public relations may prove difficult.

Luckily, many companies allow employees to work as advertising professionals with a public relations degree and vice versa. Choosing one major doesn't commit you to a specific career forever.

People who enjoy relationship-building may prefer working as a public relations manager. This job requires more public speaking. People who enjoy being creative to form impactful copy and graphics may prefer advertising. Regardless, both careers require teamwork and thinking empathetically to reach diverse audiences.

Advertising and public relations professionals should have strong writing and communication skills. Possessing basic graphic design and photography skills may also benefit these professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions About Advertising and Public Relations

Is advertising a good career?

Many people find working in advertising fulfilling. Most industries need advertisers. So these professionals can work for a company or organization that fits them. Best practices for advertising constantly evolve, so the job is always changing and rarely feels boring. Corporations tend to pay advertising professionals well.

Many advertising professionals enjoy a good work-life balance. They work during traditional business hours and usually get weekends off. This job can translate well to a remote position. So some advertisers work for companies based all over the world from the comfort of home.

Is public relations a good career?

People who enjoy forming relationships and have a wide skill set may enjoy this career. Public relations professionals work to inspire the public to take action for good causes and form brand loyalty. This job places less emphasis on making direct sales. Instead, public relations focuses more on connecting with organization and company stakeholders.

This job usually follows traditional business hours. However, it may require occasional work on the weekends for a special event or if a public relations crisis arises. Public relations professionals work for nonprofits, corporations, or advertising agencies. Many companies have entire public relations departments. So these professionals have opportunities for promotions and management positions.

Which is better: public relations or advertising?

No one can objectively define public relations or advertising as superior. These similar careers require unique skill sets. Aspiring professionals should evaluate which one best suits their personality. These career fields work together to build brand loyalty and awareness.

Public relations and advertising professionals may collaborate on campaigns. For example, take spreading the word about a new product. A public relations professional may send press releases to media outlets about the product. At the same time, an advertising manager may oversee a print ad campaign in magazines. The public relations and advertising departments may even collaborate on a promotional event.

What are the highest-paying jobs in advertising?

Advertising managers and directors working at for-profit companies earn the most money in this field. Tech companies and corporations typically also offer higher salaries. Advertising professionals who work for ad agencies may earn a little less.

Advertising, promotions, and marketing managers earn a median annual salary of $141,490, as of May 2020, according to the BLS. The highest 10% in the field earn a median annual wage of over $200,000.

What are the highest-paying jobs in public relations?

Public relations managers and directors earn the most in this field. Corporations tend to pay more than marketing agencies. Nonprofits usually pay less.

Public relations and fundraising managers at professional, scientific, and technical services made a median annual salary of $133,270, as of May 2020, according to the BLS. Those in management of companies and enterprises had annual median wages of $134,790.

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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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