The Differentiation Between Public Relations and Advertising Within an In-house Communications Campaign
Gailer, Isabel Maria
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In recent years, the roles and responsibilities of public relations and advertising have begun to overlap. Despite recent research promoting the benefits of the integration of these two disciplines, it is increasingly difficult to differentiate them, further increased by the advancements in media technology. Scholars and industry bodies cannot reach a consensus on a definition for either public relations or advertising, therefore how can organisations ensure they are utilising the correct discipline to achieve their objectives, and resourcing and developing the disciplines to reach their full potential? Furthermore, education on the two disciplines remains separate, as do industry bodies, and therefore practitioners remain specialised in a particular field of communications. Strategic communications campaigns share similar objectives and are a practical use of both public relations and advertising within an organisation. This research uses a case study methodology with a mixed methods approach of documentation and interviews, to determine how public relations and advertising are differentiated within the communications campaign ‘Richie’s Milk Run’ from the organisation Fonterra. Communications activities are examined through the definitions of public relations and advertising provided by five approaches: scholars, industry bodies, a public relations practitioner, an advertising practitioner, and the organisation. The thematic analysis used in analysing the data highlights three key themes in defining and differentiating public relations and advertising: budget, source of communication and reputational risk. These highlight that although the integration of public relations and advertising within strategic communication may be well underway, a certain amount of territorialism exists over the roles and responsibilities of the disciplines. To the knowledge of the researcher, this study is the first study to compare the definitions of public relations and advertising developed by scholars, industry bodies, practitioners and organisations.