Great Business Ideas: Know the Difference between Marketing, Advertising, and PR

Great Ideas for your Small Business:

Know the Difference between Marketing, Advertising, and PR

Too many entrepreneurs use a scattershot approach to marketing, advertising, and public relations, primarily because they don’t understand the subtle differences between the three. But knowing which to use, and when, can save you time, aggravation, and money.

Marketing encompasses a broad range of tactics from calling customers on the telephone to attending a trade show and passing out hundreds of pens with your company name printed on them.

One of the most cost-effective ways to market your business is to put your name on something useful. Jack Nadel, a veteran marketing expert and author of There’s No Business Like Your Business (; 2000), specialized for several decades in developing promotion items for big and small companies.

Nadel says the key to putting your company name or logo on something is to make sure it’s something people will keep around for a long time. He said tee-shirts, baseball caps, jackets, and fanny packs were the most popular company giveaways in the 1990s. Sports bottles with logos were also hot.

Marketing involves a myriad of creative promotional campaigns—all designed specifically to push your products. Advertising means paying for space in a newspaper or mag- azine, or buying time on a radio station, television station, or website.

But before you spend a dollar on advertising, figure out exactly what your competition is doing, establish specific goals, and set a budget, advises Andy Narraway, general manager of Odiorne Wilde Narraway & Partners, an advertising agency based in San Francisco.

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Narraway’s colleagues at the shop charge clients flat fees and present simple sketches rather than elaborate campaigns to land new business. He has this advice for entrepreneurs: “Determine whether you really need an agency or whether a graphic designer, freelance artist, or copywriter will suffice,” said Narraway. “Very often, if you want to run an ad in a local newspaper, radio, or TV station, the sales reps will help you develop your own ad.” If you decide that you need an agency, meet with at least three agencies before you sign with one. Ask for client references and check them carefully before the first meeting.

Public relations, often the most misunderstood form of promoting your business, involves getting your company or products mentioned in the media. “An effective PR program can bring valuable recognition to your company, because if your product or service is mentioned in the media, it’s an implied third-party endorsement,” explains Christine Soderbergh, an independent PR consultant based in Pacific Palisades, California.

The key difference between advertising and PR is that with an ad, you own the time and space and can basically say anything you want to; with PR, you can’t control the timing, placement, or editorial process.

“Don’t ever ask a reporter if you can see the copy before it appears,” advises Soderbergh. “And if you call an editor or reporter cold, always ask if they can talk, or if they are on a deadline.” She said it’s critical to match the story pitch to the reporter, by following their work and making sure they cover the industry you’re involved with.

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With public relations, you’ll pay a PR person to pitch the story, but won’t pay for the story to appear. Independent PR professionals usually charge by the project. Larger PR agencies require a retainer, usually $3,000 to $5,000 a month or more, plus all expenses. One critical issue: There are never any guarantees that your story will be published or broadcast, no matter how hard you or your PR firm may try.