Whenever my roommate talks about her marketing classes, I feel a weird blend of familiarity and bewilderment; it’s like I can only catch every other word she’s saying. I recognize the language, but I’m not quite fluent.
I once told her, “I don’t know how to think like a marketer.” I study public relations, not marketing! The two are closely connected, but not quite the same.
So what is the difference between marketing and public relations? How does advertising fit in? I wanted to know, so I began asking at school and researching online.
Here's what I uncovered!
Advertisements want you to notice them. At the focus of every advertisement is a product or service. “Here I am,” it says, “Buy me!”
With the rise of AdBlocker and a growing distrust of self-promotion, advertising often gets a bad rep. Information is readily (and literally) at our fingertips; most of us need more than a few seconds of a banner ad to be won over. The best advertisements are about more than the product alone; they also communicate value. Take, for example, this NIVEA DOLL video advertisement. It promotes sales, absolutely, but it also raises awareness for sun protection!
Think of advertising like a math equation: it takes the right product, expressed in the right way at the right time, delivered to the right audience, to produce a direct result.
Target: Potential customers
Message: “I am fantastic, and this is why you should buy me!”
Great for: Creating buzz about a product/service, driving sales, targeting specific audiences
Marketing might seem similar to advertising, but think of marketing as a cake. You don’t usually eat a cake whole; you cut it up into slices. Advertising is just one slice of the marketing cake!
If we’re talking about strictly business (and not a cake), then marketing is the strategic implementation of tactics that brings together the buyer and the seller. It is a map that leads to the target audience — and marketing is all about the target audience. “Who am I targeting?” it asks, “And how can I appeal to them? Why should they choose me over the competition?”
Marketing is me sending you a love letter of how you mean more to me than anyone else. It’s me writing a sonnet about how you are perfect for me, and I am perfect for you.
Target: Current/potential customers
Message: “This is how I add value to your life, so you should buy me!”
Great for: Creating brand recognition, persuading target audiences, driving target audiences to action and purchase
Advertising and marketing both aim to sell, whether it be the product or the brand. Public relations, however, aims to build a relationship (hence ‘relations’). “This is who I am,” it says, “And this is how we can connect!”
A big part of public relations is media coverage. Advertising and marketing “speak” directly to their audiences — but public relations enhances a brand through the media and word-of-mouth. You might read an article about a product launch, or you might watch a review on YouTube of a product, likely facilitated by PR people.
The end of the tunnel for public relations is not necessarily a sale or a purchase. Public relations is about creating and fostering relationships, about building credibility and trust, and about sharing a story. While sales aren't the first priority of PR, they can (and often happen) as a result!
Target: All stakeholders, including customers, influencers/editors, internal audiences, and shareholders
Message: “This is who they say I am and why I am worth talking about, so we should be friends!”
Great for: Building connections with media outlets and audiences, creating a positive image
Advertising, marketing, and PR. See how different they all are, despite how similar they seem? Each field has its own perspective and way of planning and executing! Each one on its own can produce great results, but together is when they really work best. Teamwork makes the dream work!