By Kelly Koepke
I have conversations all the time with prospective clients about what I do. Put simply, I write stuff for businesses. That stuff falls generally into the category of marketing communications – websites, blogs, newsletters, press releases and the like. All this stuff helps businesses better communicate with their existing and prospective customers.
But there is sometimes confusion about how to classify all this stuff – especially for the accountants. Is it marketing? Advertising? Public relations? What’s the difference? Does it make a difference?
Marketing vs. Advertising vs. Public Relations
Marketing is an umbrella term that refers to any and all activities designed to attract eyeballs or buyers for a business. Advertising is paid communication (also called unearned media) – ads, commercials, direct mail, etc. Public relations is any of a variety of activities (paid or unpaid) designed to influence public attitudes about a company and which turn into followers, buyers and supporters.
There is a difference between the three categories, and that difference does matter. For example, all of these activities are considered marketing, whether a company has paid for them or not:
- News coverage in print or electronic media generated by press releases
- Interviews for stories or blogs
- Website content
- Public speaking opportunities (workshops, panel discussions, etc.)
- Creation of and/or commenting on blogs, list serves, emails
- Newsletters – hard copy or electronic
- YouTube, Tik Tok and videos
- Influence sites (Yelp, Angi, Google reviews)
- Sponsorship of another organization’s special events
- Trade show participation
- Responses to emails, blog posts, Facebook posts, etc.
- Word of mouth
Goals and Audiences
Here’s why it matters. Each of these activities has a different goal – sales, clicks, comments, a news story. Each might also have a difference audience. Is the audience an internal one – employees who would be easily addressed with an electronic newsletter? Would current customers/clients and their friends/families also like that newsletter? Or is it an external audience – the general public, the news media, government/regulatory bodies, other organizations and their publics, the general business community, professional associations, and/or vendors?
Would these audiences be better reached with online, print or other paid advertising or by other non-paid activities? Sometimes, the same content is appropriate for both internal and external audiences. Sometimes the content needs tweaking to most effectively address the different audiences.
The answers to all of these questions will make a difference in how you build a marketing plan – one that may include paid advertising and public relations activities.
Kelly Koepke, a freelance writer/content creator with over 20 years’ experience helps her clients communicate with customers and the media via blogs, website copy, newsletters, press releases and ghost-written articles, among other business communication.