What is Marketing? A Practical Explanation of Marketing, PR and Advertising

Share this article

Many of today’s business owners and executives find themselves frustrated when dealing with the subject of marketing – even if they have marketing specialists in-house.

For that reason, I thought it might be helpful to share some basics about marketing, PR and advertising, as it relates to your company’s growth.

Let’s start with a very simple, but thorough definition of marketing. The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “… an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.”

This definition makes it pretty clear that marketing is not an activity by itself, but rather, a collection of strategies and actions aimed at driving business to your door. Marketing tactics may include branding, advertising, public relations, merchandising, direct mail advertising, phone sales, infomercials, multi-level marketing, and more.

It also includes the production of “collateral” – materials such as sell sheets, brochures, media kits, sales kits and any other document that supports the sales department. This marketing collateral differs from advertising as it is used later in the sales process, often as materials used by sales people to close prospects.

Let’s talk about advertising. It’s a marketing activity in which companies pay for space in print publications or on Web sites, commercials on radio or television, or direct mail pieces to advertise their products or services. This is paid space, so you control everything that goes into the message, and the cost of the space is based on reach and repetition.

Public relations differs in many ways from advertising. The Encarta dictionary defines PR as: “the practice or profession of establishing, maintaining, or improving a favorable relationship between an institution or person and the public.” Publicity is one of PR’s tactics and involves pitching a news story about your company to the press (both offline or online), and booking your spokesperson as a guest on radio and TV.

Given that the media is driven by ratings on radio and TV and by subscribers and visitors per month for hard copy publications and online news sites, they know precisely the demographics of their audience and what topics keep them engaged. Consequently, they’re very selective about who they interview as guests or who they choose to spotlight in their publications.

The great value of PR is the implicit endorsement that comes with appearing as an expert guest on radio or TV, or being the focus of a story in a newspaper or magazine. So, while advertising serves the needs of the company who is buying the advertising, PR serves the needs of the consumers who watch TV, listen to talk radio and read hard copy or online publications as their source of entertainment and information.

Of course, these are just very brief definitions – intended to give you a simple overview of the topics. I decided to write about this only because in my day-to-day conversations with clients and people interested in our PR services, I find people often confuse advertising with PR, and marketing with advertising – even when speaking with executives at large corporations. Yet each one of these tactics, when understood more clearly, can be so important to an organization’s survival and growth.

Hopefully this brief explanation can be helpful to you.

Share this article