Sacramento marketing-Institution Enterprises-marketing explained

Marketing vs Advertising vs PR…what’s the difference?

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IS There a Difference? And Does it Even Matter?

The Short Version:

If you can define these strategies in simple terms, you will be able to focus your efforts, have a clear direction, and improve your return.

If you are running a business, chances are you have spent some time working on a “marketing strategy”. Figured out your demographics, your budget, and your message. Or was that your ad strategy? Maybe you hired a “PR” firm to do, um, “P” and “R”, and they came back with a proposal for a marketing campaign.

The terms marketing, advertising, and PR get tossed around a ton. In reality though, few people really understand the difference.

What is the goal???

It usually gets super confusing when someone starts trying to explain the difference between these 3 key business services. I have seen everything from crazy venn diagrams to colorful flow charts, and none of them really cleared it up. So let’s keep it simple, and first define the goal.

Marketing, advertising, and PR all share the same goal: put your brand in front of your audience for the purpose of sales.

There are allllll kinds of tactics and strategies to accomplish this goal. There are different mediums-like print or digital. These things don’t define if it is marketing, or advertising, or PR.

Think in terms of audienceSacramento marketing-Institution Enterprises-marketing explained

Heard a great explanation of this some years ago on a podcast. It just really made sense when you think of these things in terms of “audience” instead of in terms of “service” or medium.


Talking to your audience about themselves.


Talking to your audience about yourself.

PR (Public Relations)

Your audience talking about you, to your audience.

Hopefully that made the light bulb turn on a little for you, but here are some examples that might help brighten it:

Sales is basically dating

Pretend you are on a first time blind date with someone. Each of you bring a friend to keep it kind of casual. You are sitting across from this wonderful, attractive person. There are food and drinks. You are trying to sell “you”.

Marketing-ask questions about the person. Be a good listener. Ask them what they like to do, get to know them, understand them. What problems do they have that you can relate to?

Advertising-tell the person about yourself. Don’t brag, but highlight some cool facts about yourself that makes you kinda special. Based on what you learned about them, talk a little bit about common interests, and how you relate to some of their problems.

PR-you go to the bathroom, and while you are gone, the other 3 just start talking. Your friend mentions something about how great you are, the other person’s friend mentions that they think you are really cool, and such a good fit, and etc..etc…

Do you see how this sort of works now? If you did a little marketing, advertising, and PR correctly, you and the other person would clearly see if there was a good fit, and you would have a “sale”.

Message > Medium

Think about marketing, advertising, and PR more in terms of messaging, and less in terms of medium, and I guarantee you that you will find more success. Do you see now that a billboard, for example, can be any of the 3 depending on the message?

Leverage PR for the best ROI

If this is making any kinds of sense to you, then hopefully you see that PR has the best possible ROI. 3rd party reviews carry a lot of credibility, and even more powerful than that is friend-to-friend recommendations. PR is how things go viral. Celebrity endorsements are another type of very strong PR (someone else talking to your audience about you)-although most “marketing firms” would incorrectly call hiring a celebrity part of a “marketing campaign”.

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Put it to work

Take this information and implement it into your next campaign. You may find a new strengthened sense of direction in developing it. Consider your audience, and how you want to talk to them. Are you talking about their problems? Or are you talking about your solutions? Maybe you are doing both??

As always, Institution Enterprises is here to help. Want to talk about this more? Shoot us an email. Need help refining your messaging on an upcoming campaign? Reach out. Our motto is “with you, not for you”, because we believe the best way to help you is by helping you learn how to do it yourself (like training wheels, we help make sure you do it right).

“We do it with you, not for you”

Institution Enterprises is a Sacramento marketing firm that provides a new standard in business consulting and education, helping your start-up or seasoned business design the practices and customs for success in today’s marketplace.

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