Q: What’s the difference between marketing vs. public relations vs. advertising?

A: You can think of marketing as an umbrella which includes both public relations (PR) and advertising. Marketing is the overall process of raising awareness for a product, service or person. PR and advertising are the promotional methods used within a marketing strategy. It’s common for these terms to be misused and interchanged, but it is important for business owners and managers to understand the differences between the three.

Marketing is the process where it all begins. This is where market research, business goal-setting and strategy building take place. Through marketing, you determine whether utilizing PR, advertising or a combination of both will offer the best results for your key performance indicators (KPIs) and return on investment (ROI). Great marketers don’t stop here, though. They continue to monitor the overall strategy and its campaigns, audit the methods being used and revise the plan for increasing public awareness.

PR is often seen as only necessary for celebrities. However, nearly every business should be utilizing this method within their marketing plan. PR is the process of connecting a product, service or person to the media for increased credibility. This often takes the form of a feature story in print, radio or television news. For example, a journalist may be writing an article on what to do on a summer road trip through Colorado. In these instances, it’s helpful to have a publicist who is connected to a national database of journalists who can monitor for and submit your business to be placed using a story or quote. In the eyes of the public, if you’re credible enough to be in the news you’re likely a leader in your industry.

Advertising, on the other hand, is paying for placement ­— hopefully in a place of high visual or auditory frequency by your target audience. Advertising is diverse in its modern forms of pay-per-click ads, bench banners, native (or in-app) ads, and between songs on your free, music-streaming accounts. Any place a person might be visually or auditorily engaged is an opportunity for brand exposure. The larger potential for reach, the higher the cost tends to be for advertisements. With current analytics, advertisers can often be quite confident in the exposure an ad will have. What determines its success is usually the quality and appropriate nature of the content within the ad.

Q: If PR is free in terms of coverage by the press, why would a marketing strategy still use advertising for exposure?

A: While advertising can sometimes cost more depending on its placement and run time, it takes far less time to calculate a projected ROI, design the creative and get the ad placed to run. With PR, the time it takes to get one media mention can be lengthy. While PR does tend to have a snowball effect, story pitches are constantly needing to be refreshed for time sensitivity. Your publicist is regularly sending out story pitches using interesting and newsworthy angles, building trust with preferred journalists and publications and scanning their databases for story opportunities with national journalists.

Ultimately, media placement is free for you or your product or service, but the time it takes to get there is not. The best route to take with these two methods should be calculated during your up-front marketing strategy with KPIs audited throughout your campaigns.


Q: I have a website that I paid for and use. Why should I spend money when I already paid to have a nice-looking site and had the designer use keywords so search engines could find me?

If you don’t have strong profits coming in, that’s the first reason. Having a website is your base. After that, the goal is to drive qualified traffic to your site or through your front door.

But this is a great question that, even for steady, profitable business, leads to the topic of ROI. The goal of your marketing team or agency should be to leave you with more money and customers than you had before paying for their services. Your end profit should still be higher after paying for marketing than it was prior. There’s never an absolute guarantee — if there is, run. But a good team will seek to leverage what you currently have to empower your growth as a business.

Want to learn more about marketing? Get in touch to set up a complimentary consultation or join us for our free Lunch & Learn on July 20 from noon to 1 p.m. RSVP to digitalagency@gjsentinel.com. Julie Norman and Mollie Shepardson are digital brand specialists with Sentinel Digital Agency, a sister company of The Daily Sentinel, that provides marketing services to businesses across the Grand Valley. To submit a question for our digital brand experts to answer, email us at digitalagency@gjsentinel.com or give us a call at 970-256-4387.

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