PR vs. Marketing vs. Advertising

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The terms PR, marketing and advertising are often used interchangeably, although in actuality they are three different components of a brand’s communications strategies. For a brand’s communications plan to be effective, the messaging across all three channels must be complementary. To understand how to implement a comprehensive and effective communications plan, brands must first understand what the differences are between public relations, marketing and advertising, and how they can work together to drive business.

Public Relations

The main goal of public relations is fostering a positive reputation for a specific business and brand via strategic tactics. Public relations firms help organizations across different industries generate positive perceptions while counteracting any negative perceptions through an ongoing focus on reputation management and media relations. Public relations takes a brand’s story and amplifies it to the brand’s key audiences.


The activities and set of processes that involve creating, communicating and delivering offerings have value for clients, customers and partners, as well as society at large. Put simply, you should think of marketing as a process instead of a singular activity. Marketing is a way of communicating your brand, services and products to convert leads into customers. It is how you generate more demand for your products to drive revenue ultimately. Marketing companies can help you devise strategies to market your product or services.


Advertising entails promoting your products or services through paid means. You can think of advertising as a single activity rather than an entire strategy or process. Television ads, local radio commercials or ads in a magazine are the most recognizable products of advertising, but it has now extended to other mediums. Advertising is now found on social media within platforms like Facebook and Instagram, or advertising on blogs and streaming services like Pandora.

How They Are Different

A crucial difference between public relations, marketing and advertising is the main focus. PR emphasizes cultivating and fostering relationships between a company and key publics to manage the client’s image. In public relations, the primary goal is creating relationships.

Consider the complexity of any relationship in your life (sibling, best friend, parents, etc.) and the efforts that go into maintaining those connections — that is what public relations is all about. The work and time it takes to develop and maintain stable relationships are what set public relations apart from these other two institutions.

Marketing focuses on the promotion of services and products for revenue purposes. Marketing adds an additional element to this process by concentrating on a service or product from its inception through its purchase.

Finally, advertising is an important communication tool that is used by marketers to get customers to take action. When you watch an advertisement on TV, the ad alone is designed to get you to sign up or purchase a product. Also, the majority of ads you see day to day on TV are paid for while public relations focuses on obtaining earned media.