Almost the same thing? No.
Duplication of efforts? Absolutely not!
Contrary to how the words ‘marketing,’ ‘advertising,’ and ‘public relations’ are commonly used in the marketplace, they are not interchangeable. Here is the simplest definition I can give you to help you understand the relationship of these three words.
Marketing is the big umbrella term here. I like to describe marketing using Four Ps: Product, Price, Place, Promotion. As you can see, marketing means more than promoting a product or service. It means developing and offering a product or service that people want, then putting it in the right market, at the right time, at the right location and then strategically getting the word out about it.
The P for Promotion branches into two segments: Advertising and Public Relations. These two ways of promoting an item or service (your Product) are not the same thing. Both Public Relations and Advertising are meant to evoke feelings about your product to the point that your audience will be inclined to buy your product, that’s where the similarities end. Though they have a common goal, they are completely different and work hand-in-hand for a really successful campaign.
The easiest way to define this was how my advertising professor in college described it. “Advertising is paid persuasion.” You buy ads. You dictate where they will go, the size, the copy and the artwork. You get exactly what you paid for and if you placed the ad in an outlet that reaches your target market, then you might garner some sales. Placing just one ad won’t do it except in rare circumstances. You have to keep the ad going with some consistency to get the results you want.
If Advertising is an anchor, then Public Relations is a cloud. Public relations activities are those things that help you relate to your customer. The message is carried through different channels than advertising. Contests, giveaways, news articles, awards, advocacy efforts, and so on, down to the basics of how you answer your phone are all elements of public relations. As deliberate as PR activities are, the results are in the hands of others. Journalists, editors, and your target audiences decide what they will do with the information you give them as part of your PR plan.
That’s as simple as I can make it. Now you can use the words with some confidence that you know what you are talking about.