PR, Marketing, Promotions and Advertising

Oftentimes, the first question people ask us is, “What’s the difference between public relations and advertising? Marketing? Promotions?”

While we know that all the components of a marketing strategy are important, each specialty area is quite different. Knowing the difference can save you time, money and future headaches. And if, like us, you’re in the industry, this will give you an easier way to explain to your mother-in-law just what it is that you do for a living.

Following are some helpful definitions.

Public Relations:  According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains beneficial relationships between an organization and the publics on whom its success or failure depends.

Advertising:  The paid, public, nonpersonal announcement of a persuasive message by an identified sponsor; the nonpersonal presentation or promotion by a firm of its products/services to its existing and potential customers.

Promotions: The mechanism whereby information about the product offering is communicated to the customer and includes public relations, advertising and sales, and other tools to persuade customers to purchase the product/service offering.

For a laugh, here is the not so tactical definition:

"If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying 'Circus Coming to the Fairground Sunday,' that's advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk him through town, that's promotion. If the evening news shows the elephant walking through the mayor's flower bed, and you can get the mayor to comment about it, that's public relations."
– Reader’s Digest

For your organization to truly succeed, you need to promote your products or services to the same customers that your competitors target. Even if your organization is one-of-a-kind, it is still important to tell target customers about your organization utilizing aspects of public relations, advertising or promotional communication. Public relations initiatives are a great way to promote the image or reputation of your product. PR is similar to promotions and advertising but can be more indirect, since most of the publicity an organization’s products and services receive from public relations is not always controlled by the organization. It is similar to a third party endorsing your product or service.

Marketing experts will tell you that a well-planned public relations campaign is often far more effective than advertising or promotions. Since we are a public relations firm, we tend to agree. For examples and results, please review our featured case studies.