The differences between marketing, advertising and PR


In today’s media-rich world, it’s often difficult for companies to differentiate between the diverse types of promotions strategies they can take. The processes of marketing, advertising and Public Relations (PR) have existed in various forms for centuries but recently there has been an increasing blurring of the lines between the three – often leading to confusion as to exactly what each is and what particular function each one performs.

Marketing – the overall aim

By far the most important aim of any promotional work is to increase the awareness of a brand. Marketing is often considered an umbrella term for all types of promotion, whether that be advertising, PR or actual ‘marketing’ itself.

In all cases, the end goal remains the same – to bolster and increase public consciousness of a brand (whether that be a company, person, product or service).

Often people refer to the 4Ps of the marketing mix – price, product, promotion and place – with promotion referring to all three forms of marketing, including advertising and PR. However, while there are levels of crossover between the three, each is actually distinct in its own right.

Typical tasks performed by a marketing company might include market research (to pinpoint a target audience), organizing conferences and exhibitions, planning product launches, devising and monitoring full marketing campaigns or even just formulating website content.

A company like will usually look after a client’s full promotional campaign, including working out advertising and any press/public relations requirements. Consequently, there is a definite crossover between the industries, particularly when working with full-service agencies.

Public relations

While ‘marketing’ can be considered an all-encompassing term covering almost all types of promotional work, Public Relations (PR) is a specific subsection concentrated mainly on controlling the spread of information about a brand or company.

The world’s largest PR organization, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), defines PR as being “The way organizations communicate with the public, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image.”

Typical tasks performed by a PR team or agency might include generating media statements and press releases, maintaining customer relations, communicating to government or supporting investor relations (for example, the provision of quarterly reports).


The vast majority of marketing campaigns will involve some form of advertising to increase awareness of the brand. While advertising is often considered part of general marketing, it is, in fact, an entirely separate discipline requiring its own distinct skill set.

The role of advertisers encompasses everything from choosing which media to use (such as TV, radio, internet and billboard) to developing the message to be delivered in adverts including concepts, words, artwork, music and video. Advertisers will also normally look after negotiating deals on airtime or choosing where to place an ad in a magazine or newspaper. Note – many marketing companies also have an in-house advertising division tasked with all of the above.

The increasingly important role of the internet

The internet has revolutionized most of modern life – everything from how we watch media to how we shop and interact with one another. However, while the web’s influence on our lives has been profound, it has also turned the traditional world of company promotion on its head.

Social media, websites, internet video, online advertising, live chatbots, email campaigns, etc, etc – the list is endless in terms of how companies can reach out to consumers these days.

Businesses now have a huge range of promotional channels to choose from and there are countless ways companies can market themselves – both on and off-line. Knowing which promotional vehicle to target – and how – is key to formulating a successful branding and marketing campaign.






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