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When mentioning I work in public relations, I am often met with a follow up question along the lines of “So, what exactly does that mean? People pay you to get them in the news?” My answer is, of course, no.

I say of course, but the truth is, it’s not so simple or obvious to people who don’t work in a marketing field. Many people don’t understand the difference between public relations and advertising, and still more don’t quite realize how broad a term marketing is and the various professional fields it represents.

Hopefully, the following information will help clear up the confusion.   

What is Marketing

Marketing is the general term and process used to introduce your product, service or company to your target audience, while ensuring that your existing customers remain interested.

The discipline is made up of various fields, which include advertising and public relations, as well as research, product design, customer service and support, company and product reviews and so much more.

Think of marketing as a jigsaw puzzle. There are many different pieces, each fitting into a specific spot. On their own, the pieces are just that – a piece. But when it’s put together with the next piece, it begins to show parts of the bigger picture and once all the pieces are in their place, you have a complete picture and a final product.

When your company is creating a marketing campaign, you need to consider all aspects and understand how they will all work independently as well as interdependently as part of the larger campaign. If you conduct months of market research and pay for advertising and public relations but design a label that doesn’t match the image of the product or convey the message you’re trying to send, your entire campaign could be a bust.

To break it down even further, marketing is made up of the four P’s: product, price, place and promotion.


In this case, product refers to either a tangible good or an intangible service that your company is offering to consumers. Companies need to have a solidified idea of what their product is or what they are offering before bringing it to market, and they need to know what makes their product or service unique.

Why should customers buy your goods or use your service?


Price refers to the actual cost of the product that you are selling, and correlates with the perceived value of that product. If you are selling your product for too much, or assess the value too low, consumers will not buy it. In addition, be mindful of how competitors are pricing similar products, as that should indicate how to price yours competitively.

Keep in mind that price also determines profit margin, so be sure to factor it into your supply needs to keep up with demand.


This is where advertising and public relations come into play. Promotion is when a company conveys its messaging to consumers through various platforms. In today’s digital world, this also includes social media platforms. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter make up the “holy trinity” of social media, while LinkedIn serves an important purpose for corporate businesses selling a service.

When considering which form of promotion you would like to use, make sure to do your research and determine which will work best. Once you’ve determined how you want to promote your product, research competing companies in the space so you can hire the best advertising or the best PR firm to do the job.


Place literally refers to the place where the product is sold. It should be accessible to the end users and somewhere that they shop. Today, the place usually includes some sort of e-commerce platform, but it can also include a supermarket, brick-and-mortar location or even pop-up stands.

However you decide to market your product, one thing is certain: It is crucial that your company’s marketing team fine tunes all aspects of the campaign to ensure that the product you are selling to your customers is exactly as you intended it to be.

What is Public Relations

If marketing is the sum of all pieces when assembled, then what exactly is PR and how do you create a successful PR campaign? And how is it different from advertising?

Despite being used by many businesses around the world, public relations is still one of the least understood marketing tools. To break it down at its most basic level, the best way to explain what public relations is and how it differs from advertising is with this old saying, “Advertising is what you pay for; publicity is what you pray for.”

Think of a PR professional as a storyteller, as someone telling your brand, product or organization’s story through unpaid or earned media, to your target audience. Public relations media can come through various mediums, including online or print news sources, broadcast, or even speaking engagements and social media platforms.

The goal of PR is inform the public, your public, of something happening within your company, whether it’s a new product launch, a major hire or a new partnership, to name a few. PR is also an effective tool for establishing credibility for yourself and your company because of the people choosing to tell your story.  

Reporters, editors and producers have their own credibility and have built reputations with consumers. Those narrators have the power to influence consumer behavior just based on the stories they choose to tell. They are not forced to write or broadcast a story about your company or product, so if and when they do, it is because they believe in the story you’re telling or the product you’re selling, and want to share that with their audience.

An effective public relations campaign also helps keep your brand visible. Whether through expert commentary, speaking opportunities or full-feature pieces on your brand, remaining in the news is important for your business. A good campaign will incorporate both elements — expert commentary on topics relevant to you and your business and profiles.

In addition to all the positive information that public relations helps spread, public relations can also be incredibly important when it comes to crisis management.

A crisis can come up at any time in your business. Whether there is a production line issue, an employee walkout or strike, faulty products or recall issues to name a few, it’s best to have a trustworthy partner or team in place that is prepared to help mitigate the fallout and impact to your brand.

Whatever your need, a public relations team works to earn your time in the spotlight, which brings us to the topic of advertising…

What is Advertising

Whereas public relations is all about unpaid and earned media, advertising is the exact opposite. It’s all about paid media with the intention of promoting your brand, product or service. Advertising generally reaches a very wide audience, and is not always well-targeted.

There are many goals of advertisements, which include creating a sense of need with consumers — to make consumers feel as if they need to buy your product or service — introducing them to a new product or service, or even just generally creating brand awareness. However, where PR helps establish credibility among consumers, ads do not. The majority of the time, consumers are aware that they are reading an ad and they know that the content is paid for and therefore written by the company.  

Advertising grants full control over brand messaging, ensuring no unwanted content and complete inclusion. Statements like buy now or call now for a free quote create urgency, prompting immediate consumer action. Advertisers also have control over the creative design and frequency of ad display within budget constraints.

No matter how you choose to promote your business, product or service, it is important to understand the difference between marketing, public relations and advertising. You don’t want to approach an advertising agency and expect a public relations proposal from them, nor would you want to approach a PR firm and ask for an advertising proposal. Generally, firms specialize in one of these areas – public relations or advertising – and do not cross over into the other. Understanding your needs as a business will help guide your decision of where to spend your marketing budget.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How is marketing different from advertising?

Marketing is a comprehensive approach that encompasses understanding customer needs, developing products or services that meet those needs, and communicating effectively with the target audience. It includes market research, product development, pricing strategies, distribution, and promotion. Advertising, on the other hand, is a subset of marketing focused primarily on promoting and selling a specific product or service through various channels like TV, print, online, and outdoor ads. It is one of the many tools used in marketing to drive sales and raise awareness.

What is the difference between a marketing and advertising major?

A marketing major provides students with a broad understanding of how products and services are developed, priced, promoted, distributed, and sold. It covers various aspects of marketing strategy and research, consumer behavior, digital marketing, and brand management. An advertising major, in contrast, focuses more narrowly on creating compelling messages and using media to promote products and services. It typically includes coursework on copywriting, graphic design, media planning, and advertising campaigns. Essentially, marketing is the study of how to properly use advertising, among other tools, to meet business objectives.

Is marketing just another name for advertising?

No, marketing is not just another name for advertising. Marketing encompasses a wider range of activities designed to meet the needs of customers and build long-term relationships with them. Advertising is just one component of marketing, primarily concerned with promoting and selling products or services. Marketing involves planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services, while advertising focuses on the persuasive communication aspects.

What is the difference between brand marketing and advertising?

Brand marketing focuses on building and managing a brand’s identity, values, and overall image in the mind of consumers. It aims to create a lasting relationship between the brand and its audience by consistently communicating the brand’s story, promise, and experience. Advertising, however, is more transactional and aims to drive immediate sales or action from consumers through specific campaigns and messages. While brand marketing builds the foundation and reputation of a brand over time, advertising seeks to convert awareness into action by promoting specific products or services.

How is public relations different from marketing?

Public relations (PR) and marketing serve different purposes in a business’s strategy. PR focuses on building and maintaining a positive public image and reputation for a brand or organization, primarily through gaining positive press coverage and managing communication with various stakeholders. Marketing, on the other hand, aims to increase sales through strategies that engage users and promote products or services directly to consumers. While marketing encompasses a broader set of activities including product development, pricing, and distribution, PR is more concerned with communication and brand reputation.

Who gets paid more PR or marketing?

Salary can vary widely based on location, experience, industry, and the specific roles within PR and marketing. Generally, marketing roles might offer higher salaries on average due to their direct link to generating revenue and sales for the company. However, high-level PR professionals, especially those with expertise in crisis management or corporate communication, can also command high salaries. It’s essential to research specific job roles and industries for a more accurate comparison.

Should I work in public relations or marketing?

Choosing between working in public relations or marketing depends on your interests, skills, and career goals. If you enjoy storytelling, managing relationships with media and stakeholders, and are interested in shaping public perception, PR might be a good fit. If you are drawn to the process of creating and promoting products or services, analyzing market trends, and are keen on driving sales and growth, marketing might suit you better. Both fields offer rewarding careers but cater to different aspects of a company’s external relations.

Which is better a degree in marketing or public relations?

When choosing between a degree in marketing or public relations, consider your career goals and interests. A marketing degree gives a broad understanding of product promotion and sales strategies, opening doors to marketing, sales, and advertising roles. A public relations degree focuses on communication strategies, media relations, and reputation management, preparing students for PR and corporate communication careers. Decide based on whether you’re more interested in selling products or shaping a positive public image. Choose what aligns with your passion and desired career path.

What is the main difference between advertising and public relations?

The main difference between advertising and public relations (PR) lies in control and payment. Advertising is paid media where you have control over the ad’s content, placement, and timing. In contrast, PR is earned media, which means you persuade journalists or editors to write a positive story about your organization or product without directly paying for it. This distinction often leads to PR being viewed as more credible since the content is not paid for and must be deemed newsworthy by third parties.

Should I go into PR or advertising?

Deciding whether to go into PR or advertising depends on your skills and interests. If you’re creative and have a keen interest in crafting compelling messages that can persuade directly and are comfortable with paying for media placement to guarantee visibility, advertising might be the right fit. If you’re more interested in building and maintaining a positive image for a brand or organization through earned media, developing relationships with the press, and managing communications, then PR could be more suitable for you.

What does public relations tend to do compared to advertising?

Public relations tends to focus on building and maintaining a positive public image for an organization or individual. It involves managing communication with the media and other stakeholders to earn positive coverage and feedback. PR strategies may include press releases, public appearances, and events. Unlike advertising, which directly promotes products or services through paid channels, PR seeks to indirectly support marketing goals by creating a favorable environment through earned media.

Does marketing or PR pay more?

The salary in marketing or PR can vary widely based on many factors, including experience, location, industry, and the specific role within each field. Generally, marketing roles might offer higher salaries on average because they are directly tied to generating revenue and sales for the company. However, high-level PR professionals, especially those with a track record of successfully managing a brand’s image and navigating crises, can also command competitive salaries. It’s essential to research specific job roles and industries for a more accurate comparison, as the pay can significantly vary.


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