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Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations – What’s the Diff? 

August 21, 2023

During media training we talk about perfecting an elevator pitch – a concise way to explain what you do, who you work for and what practical services you provide. Depending on what you do, this can be more challenging than you think.  

When people ask, what is public relations (PR)? – there just isn’t a simple response. Also, there tends to be some confusion about how PR, marketing and advertising are different. Here are some of the major differences between the three. 

  • Marketing is a sales support function. The goal – to promote services or products that, in turn, will drive sales for an organization. This is typically done through paid media campaigns.  
  • Advertising also supports marketing and sales. Messages and imagery are placed on billboards, newspapers, websites, magazines and other publicly visible areas to promote a brand. Similar to marketing, its goal is also to increase sales and brand awareness. 
  • We might have a soft spot for public relations 😉 but here’s where PR truly differentiates itself from the other two functions. The goal of PR isn’t sales. While this might be the icing on the cake, the main goal isn’t to promote a product or service. Instead, PR aims to build relationships with key audiences (or publics). This could be connecting a client with a journalist who can help tell their story. Or it could be building goodwill with a community.  

What’s challenging is that nothing is ever guaranteed in PR. We might successfully coordinate an interview with our client who provides a journalist with their knowledge and thoughts on a particular topic. While we hope the end goal is that there are positive quotes in the article, there’s no telling if that article will ever make it past their editor’s desk, nor is it guaranteed that a client’s quotes will make it into the story.  

So why not just pay for an ad then? By investing in paid placements, a company controls the narrative and ensures their messages make the final cut. Sure, this is a good option, however, it doesn’t hold the same weight as having third-party credibility. When a journalist uses a subject matter expert for their piece, it shows an audience that they have something important to say. It’s earned recognition and, in the PR world, it’s priceless. 

It’s true that advertising, marketing and PR play in the same sandbox, however, if you believe that business is built on relationships, consider investing in PR.  

And if you’re looking to invest in an award-winning agency, look no further! We’re thrilled to have just received a Silver Excalibur Award from the Public Relations Society of America (Houston Chapter) for the promotion of NES Fircroft’s Women in Energy Global Study. We were able to secure them some amazing coverage of their annual survey, including in Hart Energy and a little place called yahoo!.

We celebrate this win with our clients, current and future. We truly put our hearts into our work and when we win, you win. Connect with us to build a successful plan for your organization. Contact Kristen Quinn at kristen@paigepr.com to explore how Paige PR’s expertise can make a difference for your organization.