Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations explained

When it comes to applying different promotional techniques to your business, you’ve probably tried various ones and found some to be more successful than others. It might be challenging to fully understand the difference in promotional approaches or even confusing to navigate what best suits your goals while also reaching your audience.

We’ve sussed out some of the key methods to help you understand what to try and when.


Think of marketing as a large umbrella and under it falls advertising and public relations. Marketing is how you reach out to and connect with your potential customers. While the elements of marketing work together, they also must work independently.

A marketing strategy is an overall plan/approach for getting in front of customers and building your brand’s presence and reputation in the marketplace. It involves everything from media planning and buying, to developing a pricing strategy, defining your method of selling, customer support, community sponsorship and engagement, newsletters, and promotional campaigns. Marketing relies on market research to know what your target audiences desire and how to best reach them.


Those who manage marketing budgets will have allocated a share of it towards ad spend. Advertising is often the largest expense in the marketing budget. Advertising can be pushed out across various media - direct mail, email newsletters, print, online, TV, radio and outdoor (billboards, bus stops, buses). It is “persuasive and informational and is designed to influence the purchasing behaviour and/or thought patterns of the audience” (Barron's Dictionary of Marketing Terms).

There are both above-the-line (ATL) and below-the-line (BTL) advertising techniques. ATL uses mass media such as TV, radio, online and print to reach a wide consumer audience, while BTL targets one-to-one, through brochures, stickers, promotional flyers, product demos and samples.

Public Relations (PR)

Building your brand recognition and credibility through less direct techniques can be done through public relations. It’s a way to establish a rapport and share your business story and news through the media. You pay the PR expert to develop a strategy for you and roll it out to local, national and/or international media, journalists and influencers (different from a media buy and ad production used in advertising). PR could be something as simple as creating a media release around a new product launch, staying on message, pitching interviews, negotiating news coverage or liaising with social media influencers.

Public relations is known as ‘third-party endorsement’ which means the media is sharing news about your business, rather than a paid advertisement. It is designed to add more value and increase credibility, than an above-the-line ad. PR takes a longer-term approach than a quick ad campaign and can also come into play when damage control is needed to preserve reputation or to mitigate any potential future reputational crises.