The Difference Between PR, Marketing and Advertising

Many people get the terms PR, marketing, and advertising mixed up. This article will explain the main differences and similarities between these business functions. We will compare objectives, daily activities, and how the functions work together to promote the brand and contribute toward sales targets. We will also look at the metrics used to measure success.

November 30, 2021

Definition of PR

Public relations is defined as the management of reputation and image. It refers to the process of building mutual understanding and trust between a customer and brand.

Learn more about PR

Definition of marketing

Marketing is defined as the process of identifying and satisfying customer needs profitably whilst building relationships with consumers. This is mainly done through selling products that meet those needs.

Definition of advertising

Advertising is defined as communication techniques used to sell products or services. The aim is to persuade persons to respond in a certain way to what product or service is being advertised.

The difference between PR, marketing, and advertising

To briefly explain the difference between public relations, marketing, and advertising, marketing focuses on creating revenue-generating opportunities by promoting and selling specific products or services. PR is different from this as it is concerned with creating and maintaining a holistic, positive reputation for a company, brand, or person. Advertising is the communication method used to sell products.


Public Relations

Within the holistic spectrum of marketing communications, PR is a support tool for the overall organizational objective.

A key point to remember is that PR focuses on editorial content for promotional activities.

In public relations, we also make use of third-party endorsements and earned media to create publicity. This is different from marketing activities in the sense that marketing uses paid-for advertising to create awareness. Additionally, PR aims to share value-adding and trustworthy information, as opposed to convincing a crowd to purchase products. For example, advertising activities will share product-specific content, such as sustainable features and capabilities, and PR will enhance these efforts by sharing thought leadership stories about the creators behind the product and their vision.

Learn more about thought leadership


Marketing is focused on promoting a specific product, service, or idea, to increase sales. As part of the overall marketing activities, this includes conducting market research and formulating advertising campaigns. Due to the strong focus on generating sales and making profits, promotional messages are created to stimulate market demand that results in purchases.



Advertising is chiefly concerned with persuading a target audience to buy a product or service. This would usually be done through television, internet, radio, or billboards and posters. Advertising is a component of marketing, providing information on the specifics of a product to get people to take immediate action toward it.

Comparison of activities

The tasks that PR teams, marketing teams, and advertising teams are responsible for differ significantly. This includes the functions of each department, the target audience, and the metrics used.


Establish relationships with the company’s stakeholders including customers, shareholders, and the media

Positive image creation

Creating mutually beneficial partnerships with journalists

Acquiring new customers

Generating profits

Aligning with other parts of the organization

Achieving the strategic objectives of the organization

Communicating the functional benefits of the product

Customer acquisition and customer retention

Achieving a return on investment targets of campaigns

Daily activities

Pitching a story to the media

Journalist relationship management

Investor relations

Creating content that promotes the brand, for example, how the company CEO is a thought leader

Fulfillment planning with operations and manufacturing teams

Sales forecasting split by product and region

Reviewing customer research and feedback

Purchasing advertising space on radio, television, or online

Budgeting for a media campaign

Targe Audience




Media contacts

Customers (new and existing)



Customers (new and existing)



Share of voice

Social engagement

Quality of coverage

Domain Authority

Traffic from earned media

Number of positive press mentions (online, trade publications, broadcast, social media)

Awards and special recognitions

Gross profit

Share price


Brand awareness

Leads and sales

Customer acquisition cost


Conversion rates

Brand awareness

Customer engagement

Marketing spend per customer

Lifetime value

Market research focus

Identifying which journalists have influence in the industry

Selecting media outlets to build relationships with

Understing the geographical locations of current and potential customers

Understanding which media the customer is consuming e.g print, TV, digital

Creation and articulation 
of brand values

Explains the brand promise in press releases

Using marketing research to build a value proposition and converting into the brand promise

Using the brand assets in ads

Working towards sales targets

Highlighting the research and development of new products

Deciding which product to promote depending on the customer needs and production capability

Promoting products

Impact on brand

Building the brand through positioning

Creating the brand based on market research

Using the brand assets in advertising camping

Position in organization hierarchy

Reporting to the central marketing team

Align with other marketing teams on key events

Reporting to the board of directors

Working with operations, sales, and service teams to align on the organization's strategic objectives

Reporting to the central marketing team

Align with other marketing teams on product

How PR success is measured

Depending on the PR and/or marketing campaign’s goal, different KPIs will be involved in measuring the success of activities. You need something tangible to show how PR and marketing efforts contribute to company profits and ROI. KPIs make goals more realistic and demonstrate how investments in PR and marketing support overall company goals.

Media outreach

One of the metrics that the PR team is measured against is the number of press releases and pitches the PR team has sent and how they perform after getting published, the coverage each piece of media coverage generates and if it contains a backlink to the company website.

Earned traffic

This is the number of visitors that were driven to the company website as a result of PR activity and receiving links. Earned media traffic is different from traffic gained through advertising.

Domain authority

Domain authority is measured using tools like Semrush and Moz. By securing link placements on third-party websites, PR can contribute to how well a website ranks on search engines. This impacts domain authority and SEO.

What makes measuring PR difficult is that the results cannot always clearly be linked to ROI.

Learn more about SEO

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How marketing success is measured

Marketing metrics are aligned a lot more with organizational strategic objectives.

Share price

If the company is public, then the share price will be of primary concern. This is tightly aligned with shareholder perception, managed by the PR team.

Gross profit and revenue

Gross profit and revenue will also be key metrics for the marketing team and the entire business.

How advertising success is measured

Advertising KPIs will vary, depending on the type of advertising the company is running.

Click-through rate

The Click-through rate is used to measure the effectiveness of online campaigns. CTR refers to the ratio of clicks on a specific link in comparison to the number of page views. As an example, the number of people that see an ad vs. the number of people that click on it and land on the webpage.

Cost per click

Cost per click is how much you pay every time a customer clicks on an ad.

Conversion rate

This is the number of people that visit a product page compared to the number of people that buy the product.

Overlaps and similarities

PR, marketing, and advertising are inherently different from one other. As all help build brands and communicate with target audiences, they create and rely on clear messaging. They establish the brand's identity and voice. This requires the marketing department and PR team to work together to align on key messaging, target audiences, and communication strategies, to ensure unison of messages.



PR is concerned with reputation management; the related communication activities set out to establish the market authority of the brand, build trust and gain publicity through earned media and third-party endorsers.



Think of marketing as the umbrella that holds all product strategy, sales promotion, and product pricing activities together. Marketing doesn't consist of a single activity, but rather, multiple processes that lead to the overall marketing & communications goal. In this sense, marketing represents the combined efforts that create awareness, acquire customers, and drives profits.



Usually, advertising messages are accompanied by a specific call-to-action, for example, "limited time offer, buy now".


Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the difference between PR, marketing, and advertising. Although they have a lot of similarities and their goals may overlap, the various teams have different priorities. The teams should complement one another in the delivery of a single message to the customer, but use different tactics to achieve their goals. They each use very different metrics of success.

November 30, 2021
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