Marketing, advertising, and public relations are three terms that often get confused, and sometimes even get used interchangeably.

They’re all practices that aim to promote a company, product or service, so what makes them different? What makes marketing, advertising, and PR three distinct concepts? What activities do each cover?

Let’s dive right in!


Marketing is the overall practice of getting a product, brand, or service in front of an audience for the purposes of increasing brand awareness, promoting products and services, and generally encouraging sales. Practices like advertising and public relations sit under the umbrella term of marketing.

However, marketing is unique in that it also includes the more “behind the scenes” work that is essential to good advertising, PR, and branding including:

Marketing is the overall practice and study of getting a company, brand, or product in front of an audience, including using research to define the preferences of that audience, and planning how to achieve the best visibility to that target market. Advertising and PR are elements of marketing.


The term “advertising” is just a partial slice of the whole marketing pie. Advertising is the part of marketing that is concerned with creating and deploying physical marketing collateral – advertisements.

This incorporates ads displayed through billboards, TV, print, radio, and the internet. It refers to the methods (and the practicalities behind them) that communicate a marketing message to the wider world. Advertising is effectively the “end product” of marketing.

The “data heavy” parts of marketing (such as carrying out market research and establishing customer segments) can help companies to decide on the best types, styles, locations, and formats of advertising to achieve the best results.

Advertising is the design and deployment of promotional materials through paid means, and is generally concerned with attracting brand and product awareness directly through established advertising channels.

PR (Public Relations)

Though all of the three disciplines discussed here are concerned with getting products and services in front of willing eyeballs, PR deals with maintaining a good reputation in the eyes of the public; and like advertising, it’s another sub-section that sits within the umbrella term of marketing.

Public Relations is often thought of as simply creating press releases and sending them out to magazines, broadcast media, and news outlets. Though this can be a crucial part of PR for many organisations, it’s not the only thing that falls under the public relations umbrella. PR can also include company spokesperson activities, media interviews, and crisis response. Arguably, it can also include things like social media engagement, client liaison, relationship management, and even website content.

Public Relations is concerned with maintaining a good standing with your target market through media visibility, press activities, and overall reputation management.

The End Bit

Admittedly, it is hard to define the precise boundaries between these three skill sets – the exact place where one ends and another begins is particularly wibbly wobbly!

And just to make things even more confusing, the growth of the internet blurs these lines more than ever, though it has made the whole sphere of marketing incredibly accessible to smaller budgets.

All in all, every good promotion effort needs to address the right problems, display in the right place, are visible to the right people, at the right time, and offer the right solution.

Though sometimes perplexing, it can be really useful for small businesses to be aware of the subtle differences. Each of the three elements rely on each other for success. For example all of the advertising in the world isn’t going to fix a company’s poor public standing. And even the most top notch advertising or PR campaigns won’t get the results they deserves if they’re based on poor market research data.

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