What is the difference between Marketing, Advertising & PR?


Hi Everyone!

A couple months ago I asked if anyone was interested in learning more about Marketing and I received some very positive responses.  Which is why we're kicking off our #MarketingMonday series with a simple question...

What is the difference between Marketing, Advertising, and PR? 

When I worked as Head of Marketing at tech companies, and even nowadays at LNCG, this is probably one of the very first questions I ask job candidates.  This helps me establish right away if someone is serious about working in marketing, or is a little confused about the slight (but very important) nuances between the three.

In college, I studied all three subjects and quickly learned that if I wanted to be really competitive in the market, I would need to be able to do all three well and one very, very well.  I chose marketing, but it definitely took me some time to figure out that marketing was the right path for me.

Still, if you're looking to work in marketing or communications in general, it's important to know the difference.  So let's break this down!

What is Advertising?

Advertising is the profession of producing advertisements for products or services. This largely makes up a lot of creative professionals from creative directors, art directors, copywriters, and graphic designers.  Advertising hit a huge stride in the 50s and 60s (a la Mad Men), and slowly sank back and then ultimately transformed itself into the new millennium with the decline of traditional print advertising and the rise of digital advertisements.

In Advertising, you're actually conceptualizing, developing and executing upon the ad itself. Depending on the company you work for, or if you're lucky the type of ad agency you're working for, your day-to-day activities will mostly revolve around creative work and some strategy if it isn't coming from an overall marketing campaign.

So what are you doing on a daily basis now if you want to succeed in advertising?  You're either going to be on the creative side or on the media buying side. Account management is still an option, but many small agencies leave account management to executives or combine it with sales.  Learn a specialty software like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, or the whole creative suite if you've got the energy!  Learn about media buying, sometimes referred to now as Digital Marketing, in all channels from radio, tv, and especially online ads. You can learn online for free here from Google! 

I love designing.  In fact, I taught myself Adobe Photoshop at 14 with my brother's college textbook one summer in upstate New York. To say that moment changed my life is an understatement. I knew then that I wanted to work in the creative world.

Working in advertising is hard. The business of constant creativity is enough to drive anyone... well mad! Additionally, you're around a bunch of other creative people who are also under the same creative pressures and volatility as you.  Working in an ad agency is difficult but very rewarding.  I love design and picked up a lot of great skills in this field.  I especially benefited when I learned more about Pay-Per-Click advertising and how to buy media from radio, tv, and magazines.


What is Public Relations?

Public Relations (PR) is the building and maintenance of a favorable public image by a company, organization or person.  You're in the business of persuasion, impressions, and favorability.  You're trying to convince an audience, whether you're selling a product or service, or changing public perception.  Think about that. You're not buying ads - you're promoting "things" via unpaid or earned methods.  Hmm, that's vague - what is "earned methods" you ask?

To understand that, you have to know about the birth of PR and Edward L. Bernays (gosh, my college professor would be so proud of me right now)!  He was the nephew of Sigmund Freud, and started his own PR agency in 1919.

I worked as an Advertising Account Manager at a small newspaper in college and PR was often known as the "dark side."  Where journalism is the eyes and ears - basically reporting what they saw with no commentary, public relations is the persuasion efforts to sway public opinion.  Think about political campaigns and what they do to change public perception of a candidate. Do you really think that political holding that baby was unplanned?  Think about a clothing retailer creating an elaborate video documenting how safe their clothing factories are. Coincidence? What about a famous person visiting a hospital and taking pictures with sick kids? Just taking a stroll?

No - that's all PR. 

I've also worked in PR, and even owned a short-lived boutique fashion PR agency in Charlotte, NC. I was also a Communications Intern on Capitol Hill, which was basically PR.  Although I loved the interaction with clients and seeing their ideas come to fruition, I couldn't do it.  I'm decently shy, and I couldn't deal with pitching certain ideas or managing personalities.

Although, I will say that working in PR was a pivitol moment in my life and one of the greatest lessons I've ever learned. It taught me so much about storytelling and shaping public perception.  Without this astute learning experience, I wouldn't have become who I am today and it fully prepared me for my next role... marketing.


What is Marketing?

Marketing is the business of promoting and selling products or services which includes advertising, public relations, and aspects of sales.  Marketing is more business focused and traditionally revolves around the 4 P's: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. All business schools will teach this method as a foundation.

Marketing research and analytics play an important role in marketing and strategizing for any company.  It's the reason why you typically see a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) role within a company and not a Chief Advertising Manager or a Chief Public Relations Officer.  Advertising and Public Relations can easily fall under the Marketing umbrella as an initiative or task of an overarching marketing plan and campaign.

Marketing's goal then is to capture the target market's attention, facilitate the purchasing process with sales, provide a call-to-action, and then report on that with analytics. Branding also plays an important role in this, mostly related to gaining market attention and appealing to the designated target market. Marketing has transformed and surpassed both Advertising and Public Relations with the addition of digital marketing, social media, and marketing automation.

If you want to succeed in marketing, you absolutely have to know about email marketing, SEO, PPC, social media and more. It can feel overwhelming but there is so much free content online now that taking it one step at a time will help.

Marketing further breaks down into B2Consumers, B2Business (this is what LNCG does) and even B2Government.  Each of these segments introduces its own sets of obstacles and challenges in marketing. At LNCG, we're a B2B Tech Marketing company so we primarily work with tech companies who are selling a product/service to other companies.  We're even thinking about breaking into the B2G marketing by offering our services to better help the large government market. 

The reason why I chose marketing is the blend of business and creative.  I love the creative part of developing a brand and seeing them come into life.  I also love the business side of sales strategy, customer interaction and even the brainy analytics portion. It's the perfect blend of my strengths and even my personality. It's what we do at LNCG, and I love it!

So, now that we've covered what the differences are, do you feel more confident about answering this question in an interview?  I bet you will answer that question with precision and impress any marketing hiring manager!

Do you like this series?  Your feedback is so important to me (the perennial marketer) and will definitely help me figure out what other information I can provide on this #MarketingMonday series! Leave your comments/questions about marketing below!