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Public Relations vs. Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s The Difference?

These three categories can be very easily confused in the business world. The focus of these industries is the differing factor. Public Relations focuses on managing the image of a client and creating relationships between the public and the client. Marketing is about promoting products and services. Advertising is the way that marketers communicate to their audience to get them to act. 

Public Relations

Public Relations is focused on cultivating relationships, creating a good public image, and managing the reputation of the company being represented. This means that those working in this field need to divert bad attention from the public if it could damage the company. On the other hand, good press needs to be represented to the public and the media. This is a version of earned media. Earned media is achieved by pitching news to a journalist or the media in the hopes that it will get covered. This industry is focused on building relationships and not selling products.


Marketing is based on how the company plans their promotional efforts. Their audience is potential buyers and customers. They focus on promoting products in order to drive up sales. Their focus is on paid media. This means that the companies pay for the marketing efforts.


Our last component is advertising. Advertising is focused on marketing the company through imagery that will draw attention to the product. This is an essential form of marketing. This is also a version of paid media since the company pays for the creation and placement of advertising efforts. Their audience is also based on gaining new customers and keeping established ones interested.

Even though these industries are based in the business world, there are differing factors in each. An easy way to tell these industries apart is by using an example. 

Think about a university. When you go off to college, parents want you to build relationships, as you would in the public relations industry. Marketing is the university since it spreads planned messages and announcements to its publics, or the students, that it wants them to accept. Advertising can be represented by a teacher since they are “selling” information that they want you to see and accept. 

Though these industries are different, they are all necessary in the business-driven society that we live in today.

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