Marketing vs advertising vs public relations ­– what’s the difference?

When I first set-up this business I needed to create a name that represented exactly what we offered to small businesses. I chose mypr+
There is the ‘pr’ component that focuses on connecting small businesses to their key stakeholders and influencers (mainly through non-paid or low cost means). Then there is the ‘+’ that offers marketing and targeted communication to further engage your audience.
Why did I focus on pr? There is an outdated perception that PR (public relations) is just about publicity and promotion; that it is all swanning about at publicity events, sipping champagne, and schmoozing the right people ‘dahhhling’….I wish.
Well, actually I don’t wish for that. PR represents much much more and I love how PR has evolved over the years. PR is about identifying the people and organisations most important to your business and connecting with them in meaningful ways.
Public relations activities will help you build and maintain your relationships and profile with the media, your customers and stakeholders. These activities are often low or no cost and can boost the effectiveness of traditional marketing activities, such as advertising.
I believe PR represents the best and most underrated opportunity for small businesses, as long as it is used correctly, authentically and part of an overall marketing strategy.
To make the most of it though, you will need to know the difference between marketing, advertising and PR. There are literally thousands of definitions for all of the following terms but here is my take on it.
Marketing
Marketing involves strategic planning and implementing a mix of business activities to facilitate the transfer or exchange of products or services between an organisation and the customer or consumer.
The mix of business activities can involve everything from research, sales and advertising to public relations and evaluation.
It can be easier to picture marketing as an overall pie and the business activities or elements such as advertising and public relations as pieces of that pie.
Other pieces of the pie can include research, sales, evaluation, media planning, product pricing, distribution and customer service and satisfaction. They are all individual components that must complement each other and together contribute to the overall marketing goal.
Advertising
Advertising is the process of making existing or potential customers aware of the product or service you are selling. This is achieved through advertisement placement in mediums such as newspapers, magazines, billboards, TV, radio, social media and the internet.
Advertisements are designed to reach as large a part of your target audience, in one hit, as possible. For this reason it is often the largest expense of most marketing plans.  It is critical that the most appropriate advertising medium and delivery are used to reach your target market.  
You need to fully understand what demographics will see your advertisement and understand what kinds of messages and delivery will best resonate with your audience. If you don’t understand this, your advertising dollars could be wasted.
Public Relations
PR is about communicating, networking and engaging with people and organisations that can influence the success of your business.
This may involve direct engagement with customers, stakeholders or the community. It may involve engaging with your audience via social media. It can also involve engaging with the media and attempting to secure positive media coverage.
PR can be any business activity to build, maintain or protect your profile or reputation. Effective PR enables you to share your story in a positive light without paying for advertising.
Tools that can achieve this include but are not limited to:
  • Stakeholder meetings and engagement
  • Community events
  • Industry networking and engagement
  • Donations and sponsorships
  • Media releases, interviews and engagement
  • Publicity and media events
  • Social media presence.
The basis of good PR is understanding your key stakeholders and engaging with them through targeted and tailored communication; understanding what all of your stakeholders want and need from you and trying to give it to them.
You can start by identifying all of your stakeholders or stakeholder groups and prioritising them. For each key stakeholder or group you may like to create a customer persona. This will get you in the head space of understanding how you should communicate and engage with that particular stakeholder.
Then you should identify key messages and Q&As for each of the key stakeholders. Ask what problem do they have and how can you fix it?
Identify specific engagement activities for each key stakeholder and allocate responsibility to someone in your organisation to manage those activities or relationship.
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