What’s the difference?

What’s the difference?

By Christine Brown, Intern

I am pursuing a business major with a concentration in marketing as well as a public relations/ advertising minor. When I tell people what my major and minor are, they look at me, look at the ground, and back at me. Then ask, “Well, what’s the difference?” To me the differences are obvious, but I have a difficult time explaining them to others. I usually try to fumble around and put together some quick answer. I finally decided to figure out the best way to explain my passions in life and have it make sense to everyone who asks me this question from here on out.

I decided to look to the ever reliable Dictionary.com for definitions. Marketing is “the act of buying or selling in a market.” Advertising is “the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service, need, etc. by paid announcements in newspapers and magazines, over radio or television, on billboards, etc.” Public relations is “the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.”

So to break this down into simple, easy to digest terms, marketing is making someone want to buy a product. Advertising is paid publicity. Public relations is connecting with the public to promote goodwill.

Even though each of these topics has to deal with the process of supply and demand and having consumers see companies in a good and positive light, they are extremely different once put under the microscope. With advertising and marketing, the company has complete control over what is viewed by the public; however that does not come without a price. For public relations, there is little to no control over what is in view to the public but the publicity is free.

Why is public relations important? Why is it essential to businesses? It allows companies to have a direct line to the people. This is important to have with new releases because it is a pipeline to everyday people. It allows people to know about a company’s product or new developments that are being made. Also, in times of company crisis, public relations is extremely important. It is always reassuring to see a company release a statement after something has happened just to comfort the public and show involvement in the situation.

Even though there may seem like there are crossovers in these three fields and it may seem as if one is not needed in the presence of the others each plays an intricate role for companies. In the case of public relations, it is necessary and needed in today’s world and it will always be. As long as there are companies, the world will need public relations. Now, if you are ever asked the question, “what is the difference between public relations, marketing and advertising?” Do not hesitate or beat around the bush for an answer. Answer the individual with this new found knowledge that you have because there is a difference.

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