PR and Advertising: Collaborating In a Digital Age

For many years there was separation between church and state, so to speak, when it came to advertising and public relations. Sometimes agencies would handle only one discipline or the other. Consumers would get their advertising message from old-school radio, TV and magazines. PR teams were typically responsible for content related to a company or brand through their storytelling and relationship building.

But with the advent of the Web, advertising no longer controls the distribution of a message, and PR is no longer the only one controlling a feature. Today, audiences can look at Facebook, YouTube or a blog to get a marketing message, and they can also be the ones who are telling the story. There are many channels competing for the eyes of the buyer.

This is why advertising can no longer be a one-way channel. In the age of digital and social media, both advertising and PR must together create an engaging digital dialogue so that the message becomes a two-way conversation and is more credible.

Paid advertising needs to ignite the kinds of ideas that initiate conversation in earned media, while PR develops the infrastructure to help engage these savvy audiences online.

Here are five ways in which advertising and PR are collaborating in the digital age:

1) Content marketing. The goal here is to deliver relevant and valuable content that influences behavior and builds traffic to the brand. Advertising and PR have the opportunity to work together to accomplish this goal.

The thought leadership pieces created by the PR team can now be fully integrated with advertising tactics and be delivered to the audience in the precise format that they want, at the time they want it, and through the channel that they prefer.

For example, a long-form case study may be turned into a mini case, an infographic, an abstract or a tip sheet. Advertising may then create an email nurture campaign, a landing page or banner ad to support and drive people to this content.

2) Influencer marketing. The digital age has definitely contributed to the growth of using influencer marketing to connect businesses and clients. While consumers have always been influencing or sharing opinions through word of mouth, today it is amplified through social media.

Because today’s consumers often tune out traditional advertising, influencer marketing becomes even more relevant as these influencers are seen as a trusted source or recommendation. This tactic is an important way to not only to build an audience and drive awareness of a brand but also drive action.

3) Native advertising. Found on digital platforms, native advertising is another way to add value for consumers by providing advertising in the form of informative content. Sometimes consumers are not even aware that they are being exposed to these ads, as the line can be blurred between ads and content.

Advertising and PR work usually work together in this tactic—with PR handling the content, and advertising placing the ad in the right channel.

4) Inbound marketing. Traditionally, advertising focused outward on ads, direct mail, trade shows, television and radio to bring awareness. Today, companies and brands are bringing customers in via content consumers want to see. Social media and SEO help to bring these eyes where they need to be.

When advertising and PR work together to push both traditional and inbound tactics, they can not only reach clients in ways in ways that matter, but also craft the kinds of messages that connect with their audience.

5) Pay per click. PPC ads are sponsored links that show up when you perform a Web search in one of the search engines. These links are typically more targeted than traditional advertising, and they offer another way for PR and advertising to work together—both in determining what keywords and ad copy prompt the click, and in deciding what kind of landing page to send people to.

In a hyperconnected world, we must do more than just create a great ad and media plan. We must be responsive to what audiences are talking about and involve them.

When advertising and PR work together effectively in creating a dialogue, they can create key messages that ignite emotions and disseminate them successully using today’s digital tools. PRN

(This is the first article in a new column exploring how PR and advertising executives can work together more effectively.)


Adryanna Sutherland is president of gyro Cincinnati. She can be reached at

This year’s Natural Product Expo in action. The event drew more than 1500 members of the media.

This article appeared in the October 14 issue of PR News. Subscribe to PR News today to receive weekly comprehensive coverage of the most fundamental PR topics from visual storytelling to crisis management to media training.