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Get Your Story Straight: The Difference Between Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing

By LTM Team — March 3, 2021

flatlay image of press coverage in austin mothly

Public relations is not social media. Advertising is not public relations. Marketing seems to mean everything all at once (it does, but it doesn’t).

…These terms are often used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be. They actually have specific meaning.

Marketing Majors Know the Four Ps.

Quick old school definition of marketing:

  1. Define what the product is.
  2. Determine how to price it.
  3. Determine how to get to the consumer’s place.
  4. Figure out how to promote it.

As you can see, promotion is just one aspect of marketing.

Public Relations is a fifth.

Public relations has several aspects to it as well. Yes, it includes press releases and getting your story in various media. But it’s really about maintaining relationships.

This can be community relations, employee relations, crisis communications, media relations, sponsorship engagements, ongoing messaging through digital or printed newsletters – pretty much anything where a public image needs attention.

It’s also known as “earned” media. It’s when people are talking about you, versus you putting an ad in front of them.

Advertising: Paying to promote. Because alliteration.

Advertising is pretty much any form of paid media that raises a brand’s awareness.  And it’s getting tricky. There are so many ways to advertise that it can be daunting to find the right strategy and media mix to achieve your goals. For example, digital media is cheap and trackable, but that means everyone can afford it. (Yay?)

But there’s a catch. You might want to set your highly reputable business apart when Junky Businesses-R-Us can buy in the same digital space as you. (Oh.)

So be smart about your digital buys and always choose forms of media carefully to reflect your brand promise.

It can be digital, traditional, guerrilla, event engagement, wearable – whatever is right for the brand.

By the way, print is not dead. Quality print publications have a strong and dedicated following. It may be more expensive to get in front of these folks, but if you can do it, you are aligning your brand with that of the publication and its other advertisers. (Sorry, Junky Businesses-R-Us.) It’s not as easily trackable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not working.

But What About Social Media?

So what is this social media thing? Is it digital marketing? Yes. Is it a way to maintain public image aka public relations? Yes. Is it free? Yes. Is it cheap? Yes. Is it expensive? Yes. How is this possible?!? Magic. Should I use it? Maybe.

Anyone can create a social media page and make posts. That part is free.

Most social media platforms have algorithms to weed out advertisers unless they are paying to play. This part is no longer free.

Also, anything posted on social media is really for public consumption, so you have to be careful and thoughtful about what you post.

Keep your Promise.

All of the intricacies of promotion can’t be fully explained in a blog post. But it’s good to know that as an agency, we have fully integrated advertising, public relations, digital marketing and social media so that our clients’ customers can have a seamless brand experience, no matter what methods they choose to use for engagement.

Our term for this is brand communication. We think it’s slightly easier to say than public-social-adverrelations-mediapromotions.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by trying to define and differentiate between marketing, advertising, social media and public relations to a client? How have you effectively communicated their meanings?

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LTM Team

Collectively, we’re a medley of designers, publicists, digital marketers, creatives, and account execs. And individually, we’re an assorted bag of quirky, fun, and sometimes strange, people who love their places.

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