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By: Hailey Kilbarger

Black coffee is to latte drinks as Public Relations is to Advertising. Why am I making this comparison? Well yes, I do love coffee, but there’s more to it than that.

I’m often asked to explain the difference between Advertising and Public Relations. The way I look at it, Public Relations is like black coffee. It’s strong, bold, and just like PR professionals, it helps get stuff done. In order to be successful in PR, you have to be a jack of all trades. Charismatic so that you can communicate with clients and reach out to media contacts, logical so that you can create a plan or strategy that will really work, and analytical so that you can evaluate your success or failure. People in the PR industry are typically outgoing, driven, and very organized. Now that’s not to say Advertising people don’t have similar characteristics and responsibilities. But from my perspective, Advertising is more like a latte drink. It’s a little smoother and sweeter. People in Advertising tend to be more creative and enjoy digging deeper and looking at the same old things in new and different ways. They like to spice things up and “AD” a cherry on top.

Not only are the people different, but so is the work. Public Relations still serves the primary purpose of informing the public and promoting events or services. PR is very comprehensive in the sense that it covers all possible elements in a campaign. In PR, you are solving the problem of the client by building or fixing their brand’s reputation or handling a crisis. Advertising is more focused on making you feel a certain way. It’s not only convincing you to buy a product, but also a feeling or a lifestyle. The primary goal is to solve the problem or take advantage of the opportunity the client has, of course. But often times that problem or opportunity is based on the consumer.

As the industries continue to become more integrated, however, the line between Ad, PR, and Marketing has blurred. Because of the digital world we live in today, there are more opportunities than ever before. Valuable skills such as writing, accounting, and graphic design are also integrated into Ad and PR. The skill set for success is constantly changing. As students, the best way we can prepare ourselves is to become versatile. Take a photography class, learn how to code, get a certification, speak another language. Everything helps.

At the end of the day, we all have the same goal: to be employed and do work that we love. So does it really matter if we drink black coffee or lattes?

Hailey Kilbarger is in her junior year at Grand Valley with a major in Advertising and Public Relations. Although her emphasis of study is in Advertising, she is interested in Public Relations as well and wants to get a feel for both industries. She loves to learn and travel and will be studying abroad in Spain this winter semester to complete her Spanish minor. She is also minoring in Applied Statistics. In her free-time, Hailey enjoys finding unique little coffee shops to hang out.


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