Public Relations, Marketing and Advertising – Is there a difference?

By: Ellie Forkins


When thinking about marketing, advertising and public relations, it can sometimes be challenging to know the difference. But trust me, there is. Despite the various terms used interchangeably throughout these professions, each industry functions in its own way. And although these three industries tend to fall under the same umbrella, they do not always share the same goals. Confused yet? Let’s break down exactly what each profession does and how they differ. 

Public Relations
Public relations, which some say is equivalent to reputation management, is the ‘art’ of earned media. Public relations, as defined by PRSA, “is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

PR practitioners work closely with local, regional and national reporters and media outlets to craft positive and informative news stories about their clients. Since these news stories are earned, rather than paid for (i.e., advertising), the public tends to view this information as more credible because it was independently verified and vetted.

When it comes to PR practitioners, they do more than write press releases or schmooze with celebrities like Samantha Jones from Sex and the City. These individuals assist organizations with their business and community events, coordinate speaking engagements, and cultivate media relationships to name a few.

At Commonwealth PR, public relations is in our blood, and it’s even in our company’s name! Our team is well equipped to handle everything from developing creative media relations campaigns to building relationships between reporters and our clients.

Goal: Create, maintain, protect and in some cases improve an organization’s reputation and image utilizing the media.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

I once heard marketing described as the entire pie, with public relations and advertising making up two of the slices of pie (along with market research, community involvement, etc.). Based on my own understanding and experience, I think this analogy best describes the marketing industry.

Although marketing represents the entire pie, there are still certain tactics and activities that are typically performed by marketers such as market research, merchandising, distribution, etc. Sometimes, especially for small organizations, markets wear many hats, include those for PR professionals and advertisers.

When it comes to marketing, at Commonwealth PR we work closely with our clients to determine the best marketing strategy and their needs. We also work with our client’s marketing departments and other agencies to partner on projects to ensure both our efforts and goals are aligned. In addition to developing strategies, we can help develop marketing content for our clients’ social media channels to raise brand awareness and drive engagement.

Goal: Foster and maintain a positive relationship with current customers while acquiring new ones.

Last but not least we have advertising. Merriam-Webster defines advertising as “the action of calling something to the attention of the public especially by paid announcements.” Advertising is, in the simplest form, paid media. Paid media = placement was paid for an organization.

Advertisers do far more than place an ad in the newspaper or online. These individuals are skilled at determining the target audience and the strategy needed to reach those consumers. They also create advertisements from beginning to end, including the copy and visuals. In a world full of ads everywhere you look, it can be easy to overlook the complexity of this job.

At Commonwealth PR, we assist our clients with creating sponsored content and running social media ad campaigns. In addition, we work with many advertising partners on projects pertaining to media buys.

Goal: Inform and persuade current and potential customers to engage with an organization’s services or products.

At the end of the day, advertising, marketing and public relations work hand in hand to increase sales of products or services and/or encourage and foster the public’s support of a business’s brand. If your business is in need of a public relations, marketing, or advertising strategy, reach out and let us know how we can help.

We are here to help your company succeed! Reach out today to set up a conversation with our team to discuss your needs.


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Suite 120
Glen Allen, VA 23060

Phone: +1 804 510 0039


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Commonwealth Public Relations & Marketing, Inc.

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