Marketing vs. Advertising vs. Public Relations

A graph suggesting a relationship between advertising, public relations and marketing.

Edit: This post is great, but the new version is even better.

First off, if you are a college student who found this blog while rushing to finish your “Communications 101” term paper that is due tomorrow, good luck! Because we know that terminology within the communications industry can be confusing and sometimes blend together, we are here to provide a helpful breakdown of the differences between marketing, advertising, and public relations.

We’ve written about this before, but this time we’re back with a few examples, at least one Game of Thrones reference, and even more sarcasm. (Also, we secretly hope that our friends and families will read this again, so they stop asking exactly what it is that we do.)

Here we go!


According to our friends at the American Marketing Association, the fancy definition of marketing is: the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

Basically, marketing is an umbrella term for a process that encompasses a lot of different activities, like public relations or advertising. If you have a product or service and you utilize different tactics to get more attention, to get people to engage, or to create positive relationships for your brand, congratulations, you have officially done marketing.

Also, since we are currently obsessed with Game of Thrones, here is cool example from when HBO teamed up with Mountain Dew to produce the coolest pop cans ever. That’s marketing!

Public Relations

“I’ll take marketing tactics for $200, Alex.”

“A strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

“What is public relations?”

“Nailed it.”

Whether it is a Fortune 500 company, a small business, a celebrity, or a community organization, public relations is essentially all about building and maintaining a good reputation. Typically this involves generating favorable publicity through earned media stories. This is done through media pitching, which we kick ass at.

Public relations can also involve creating internal messaging for employees, planning engaging events for stakeholders, doing damage control after a scandal, and pretty much anything under the sun that is focused on creating a positive image.


You pay for this one! The definition of advertising is: the action of calling something to attention of the public especially by paid announcements. This is probably the most understood tactic within marketing, as people see an insane number of advertisements every single day.

Whether it is a full-page spread in a magazine, a 30-second TV spot, a snippet on a local radio station, or social media promotions, it is important that advertisements are informative, persuasive, and encourage action from potential customers.

These are awesome ad campaigns:

The magic of integrated communications

Now that you understand that public relations and advertising are tactics that fall under the larger umbrella of marketing, we’re here to tell you that the real magic happens when more than one marketing tactic is leveraged; aka, integrated communications. AKA, WHAT WE DO BEST.

If you still have questions, or need help with the rest of your term paper, give us a call. We’re always happy to be knowledgeable, humble experts.

This blog post is an updated version of the 2016 Marketing vs Advertising vs Public Relations blog.

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