Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations: What’s the Difference?

Marketing, advertising, and public relations.  If you’re in any of these fields, you have most likely been exposed to all of these categories and understand the complex ins and outs.  Anyone not in these industries, though, may struggle to comprehend what exactly people in these fields do. Worse yet, they may even use these terms interchangeably.  These fields are actually quite different though, with unique responsibilities and goals embedded in each. Here is a brief breakdown of the different fields:

1) Digital Marketing

Marketing can be used as an umbrella term for delivering a product to a target audience, and advertising and public relations fall under this broad umbrella. Generally speaking, it’s the sum of all parts. The goal of marketing is to acquire customers through the promotion of products or services, establish relationships with them and then maintain those relationships over time. A good synonym for marketing, and another way to think about it, is promotion, which is referenced above. Ultimately, your goal is to market or promote your product through various channels. Digital Marketing is expanding rapidly, with content marketing, email marketing, ads appearing in all of our social channels.

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2) Digital Advertising

Advertising, as mentioned above, is one slice of the marketing pie that includes paid-for media exposure. The goal of an ad is to tell the target audience important and specific company information and facts through various mediums, including television, print (e.g., newspapers, magazines, journals,) radio, press, internet, direct selling, contests, sponsorships, posters, clothes, events, and even people (ambassadors.) Overall, the goal of advertising is to inform, persuade, or remind customers about your product, service or brand to get them to buy into it.

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3) Public Relations

Public relations helps establish positive brand image and increase brand awareness; it’s all about reputation management. Public relations can include press releases, events, speaking opportunities, sponsorships, and media relations for the client. The goals are more broad than those of advertising and vary from client to client. For some, it’s about creating a reputation that previously didn’t exist because you’re a new company or a new service. For instance, a lifestyle and beauty public relations client may have the most amazing new product or service, but no awareness. Getting a splashy article or partnering with an influencer for for that article could help a business explode to stratospheric levels, driving traffic and sales. For others, it’s about crisis and reputation management in the sense of diverting attention away from potentially damaging press to maintain that positive image. The services that PR offers are very tailored to each client’s wishes, but the biggest difference between public relations and advertising is that PR is usually made up of earned media - i.e. organic and unpaid for - while advertising is paid for.

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