• Richard Forbes

Public Relations vs Advertising vs Marketing

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

The communications field is filled with creative and silver-tongued professionals who make a living off of their ability to connect with the public. Through words, images or a combination of the two, the communications industries seek to influence the public’s mindset in novel, interesting ways to increase activity for their organizations. Professionals can find a variety of careers in these fields specializing in specific subjects, industries, or concentrations. With a wide range from the sciences to the arts, advisors and creators of social interaction are critical for any successful business or brand.

There is much overlap in these industries, following similar strategies of theory and campaign style. In this industry, public relations, advertising and marketing professionals are often confused. These professions often intertwine in their methods, leading to curiosity among the populous as to what these careers entail. Combining words, graphics and relationships, all of these careers delicately balance the needs of the public and the needs of the organization. There are some key differences that separate these industries:

Public Relations

Public relations focuses on maintaining a positive reputation of organizations in the media and public eye. Public relations professionals are often portrayed in popular culture as “spin doctors” who frame events to best suit their needs. Indeed, public relations is focused on the relationships between corporations and those invested in them. However, this career relies on reputation, both professional and personal.

These careers are available in both PR firms and in-house departments. Varying in size and budget, public relations teams release content through various means to several distributors in order to maximize reach and public engagement.

Generally, professionals are tasked with:

  • writing press releases and presentations

  • contacting and informing media professionals of organizational news

  • using public forums to spread information about the organization

  • taking clippings from print publications to monitor public feedback

These professionals also act as a representative to the organization for public statements or comments. By electing a figurehead, organizations can disseminate information through a single clear voice, increasing positive reception and clarity within messages.


While all of these careers focus on public perception, advertising drives customers to purchase a product or service by means of persuasion. A subset of the promotional aspect of marketing, commercial advertising seeks to draw customers to a business or to maintain current customers. Noncommercial advertising seeks to draw supporters or awareness to causes or organizations other than a commercial business, such as a charity, nonprofit, or political party.

Whatever the organization, advertising’s end goal is to promote a client’s product or idea and create engagement from its audience. An advertising agency is made up of several occupations, each with distinct duties. Some of these jobs include:

  • Account Manager

  • Account Executive

  • Creative Director

  • Art Director

  • Copywriter

  • Media Planner

  • Media Buyer

  • Brand Manager


Marketing is often identified as an umbrella term for this industry, combining the techniques of all industries to masterfully attract the attention of consumers. Defined as the study of exchange relationships, marketing looks to examine and take advantage of the public’s desires for goods and services. Marketing pulls together several fields, including public relations and advertising, to release a corporate campaign. These campaigns commonly look to attract new customers or increase public awareness.

Typically, the marketing team is responsible for:

  • planning the company’s promotion

  • pinpointing a product’s target audience

  • researching the current market environment

  • setting marketing budgets for product launches

  • evaluating the success of the marketing campaign

The job market in marketing can vary between employers. Often, applicants can be employed by in-house corporation teams or agencies who are hired by corporations to manage promotions.

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