What are the Differences between Marketing, Advertising, and PR?

Marketing, advertising and PR have different functions, but share common goals. Understanding this is crucial if you plan on working in this sector!
Ivy Simon
Editorial Writer
Marketing, advertising and PR have different functions, but share common goals. Understanding this is crucial if you plan on working in this sector!

It’s easy to get the fields of marketing, advertising, and public relations mixed up. After all, they all serve to promote an organisation and its products and services. But if you're thinking about starting a graduate career in one of these fields, you need to be aware of what each field comprises, its individual functions, and how they all work together.

What is Marketing?

In short, "marketing"  is the process of increasing public knowledge of a product, person, or service. Advertising and public relations are forms of promotion that belong under the general category of marketing work.

A marketing team is in charge of arranging and executing promotional work for a company. This includes identifying a target market for a product or service, analysing that market, establishing a marketing budget, launching promotional campaigns, and evaluating the campaign's performance.

You can find work either with marketing companies/agencies that other organisations turn to when they need marketing assistance, or you can find marketing graduate jobs in large organisations with internal marketing teams.

If you decide to pursue a career in this field, your tasks can include gathering information through interviews and market research, creating social media posts and other online promotional content, planning conferences and exhibitions, ordering advertising, and developing fresh concepts for product promotion.

What is Advertising?

A marketing team will typically contact an advertising firm when it determines that a campaign needs advertising. Large marketing consultancies occasionally have their own advertising divisions, but most advertising jobs are usually found within dedicated advertising agencies. 

Simply put, advertising is a method of influencing a certain audience to purchase a product/service. This is normally done through advertisements delivered via television, radio, print publications, the internet, events, or billboards. This is an incredibly competitive industry, and advertising companies are always trying to one-up each other in terms of creative clout. As such, they are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to reach out to potential customers.

You could work on the creative side of advertising, generating concepts, advertising copy, and artwork for advertisements, or on the account management side, which handles client relationships and matches creative work with clients' requirements. 

Another option is to work in media planning. That is, choosing and purchasing the amount of print space or air time needed to display advertisements, and negotiating contracts with channel owners like newspapers, television networks, or social media influencers.

What is Public Relations (PR)?

While advertising is primarily focused on increasing sales of a company’s product or service, public relations (PR) is more concerned with maintaining the company's positive reputation in the media. 

The majority of PR positions are located in larger companies' internal PR teams. However, you might also work as the only PR representative on a general marketing team, or join a specialised PR agency. 

Getting their companies or clients noticed by the media is the aim of PR professionals. While audiences can clearly spot and identify advertising, the job of a PR professional is a bit more subtle – that is, to get an organisation promoted in the media in a way that does not seem like open advertising. 

Some of the responsibilities of PR professionals include writing press releases, contacting journalists and informing them of news about the organsation, speaking about the organisation in public forums, creating internal publications like magazines and newsletters, and keeping track of when their organisation is mentioned in the media. 

When needed, PR professionals may also serve as the public face for their organisation when it needs to issue public comments or statements.