The Differences between Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising: A Look at PR

Business leaders want and need to understand the differences between marketing, public relations & advertising. Following a post on marketing, this addresses public relations (PR).

Members of the International Association of Business Communicators discussed the question. Here is a summary of their responses.

Examples of public relations PR belongs to the media outlet/audience. PR develops communications that become "owned" by the people and media to whom communication is distributed (it's their story). PR communicates with the public at large to raise brand awareness. By definition, PR is the business of inducing the public to have understanding for, and goodwill toward, a person, firm, or institution. PR builds relationships with targeted communities.

PR can stand alone as an independent function as well as support a variety of purposes. For example, PR can complement marketing objectives. PR can influence business goals. PR can strengthen political aspirations.

PR creates and enhances marketing messages, determining the best strategies to deliver them to the intended target audiences. Similar to marketing, PR professionals create strategy and develop, build and maintain relationships with targeted constituencies. They plan events and campaigns to communicate effectively with the public at large, including potential customers, to raise awareness, and to enhance a company’s overall brand presence.

PR examples include pitching a story idea to a media outlet to earn editorial coverage about a company, its products or services, holding a press conference, providing public speaking engagements, sponsoring a special event, and changing the perception of a specific audience about a specific topic. Like marketing, PR encompasses both traditional and social media, as well as online and offline communication channels.

Again, a combination and well thought out strategic communications mix, or Integrated Marketing Communications plan, will deliver the most successful results.


This post is part of a three-part series by Christina Motley:

The Differences Between Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising:  A Look at Marketing
The Differences Between Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising:  A Look at Public Relations
The Differences Between Marketing, Public Relations and Advertising:  A Look at Advertising


Christina Motley is an award-winning marketing and communications professional, writer and consultant. You're invited to follow her on Twitter @christinamotley.

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  1. I think the most important element for PR is building relationships with the right influencers. Too often PR professionals get caught up in how many mentions they got or how many places picked up their story idea. I’d love to see more PR professionals focus in on building relationships with the right influencers.. quality over quantity.

    The best part is that it’s easy to do.. it just takes time.

    If you want someone to write about your brand and talk about your brand, you really need to focus in on them first. Read their stories, understand what they are interested in, and understand what’s important to them.

    How can you expect someone to listen to you if you are not listening to them?

    Here’s a quick tip to start…

    Choose 5 publications you think are influencers for your target market. Subscribe to the publication and start commenting on stories that are written — showcase your opinion and join their conversation.

    Then look to offer your own story to them, but only after you understand and have participated in their stories. It might take a month, six months or even a year before that happens — that’s ok stick with it and you will be rewarded with long term success in the end.

  2. I am going to for quality in 2010 for my business. Now to move forward with a plan.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Cameron and Sid. The conversation moved here and thank you for participating there, too!

  4. Cameron,
    Thanks for reading and responding. I agree with you. Building quality relationships with the right influencers will go much further than a single mention.

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