Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations: What Is the Difference?

Often, you’ll hear business owners and marketers using the terms like “marketing,” “advertising,” and “public relations” interchangeably. Although they are interrelated, they don’t mean the same thing.

Knowing the subtle differences between these terms will help you realize why a business couldn’t leave one without the other. You will also know the best corporate PR strategy or marketing methods to capture your targeted audience or meet your objective.

What Is Marketing?

Marketing is so common and broad it does have plenty of definitions:

  • It is an activity of selling products and services to your intended audience.
  • It is a series of processes that involves promotions, advertising, and public relations.
  • It is communicating your brand to your customers.
  • It is engaging your community or building relationships with customers and even other business owners.

Marketing can also have various objectives:

  • Inform or raise awareness about your business to your customers
  • Persuade the audience to buy
  • Strengthen market loyalty
  • Dispel myths or misconceptions about the brand, product, or industry
  • Launch a product or service

Regardless of the objectives or the definition, marketing usually has one end goal: sell and earn income from products and services.

Under this concept is marketing mix, which is a combination of controllable factors to sell a product:

  • Price
  • Promotion
  • Place
  • Positioning
  • People
  • Product
  • Packaging

Each has its weight on the marketing mix, but they are equally essential if you want to succeed in marketing. Under promotion are advertising and public relations.

What Are Advertising and Public Relations?

Brochure design

Advertising is a marketing strategy that involves paid sponsorship or promotions. Some popular options include:

  • Radio and TV advertising
  • Magazine and newspaper advertising
  • Brochures, leaflets, and flyers
  • Directories
  • Decals on public transport
  • Billboards

How about online marketing strategies? It depends on the method. Paying for Facebook or Google Ads falls under advertising, while search engine optimization (SEO) doesn’t.

If you pay for a website space or create banners, then that’s also advertising. The same goes for paying a business to include yours in the list of featured products.

Meanwhile, public relations is all about reputation management. The goal here is to create and maintain the positive image of the brand. You can also use it to correct wrong ideas about the company. It is less advertorial, which means it is not engaged in hard selling.

What are the various PR strategies companies can do?

  • Donate or partner to charities and non-profits
  • Create a foundation or non-profit organization
  • Publish investor relations regularly
  • Communicate sound policies and decisions during a crisis (e.g., COVID crisis communications)
  • Support the local community
  • Boost influencer and social media marketing

How Do All of These Come Together?

Advertising and public relations are two of the major backbones of your marketing process. Advertising allows you to create promotional materials meant for a specific target audience. It helps improve generating higher-quality leads, increases your conversion rate, and makes marketing even more cost-effective.

Public relations, on the other hand, helps enhance public perception of the brand, product, or service. By raising your credibility, you give customers and even investors more reasons to trust you. It also bolsters loyalty.

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