What's the difference between marketing, advertising and PR? - Dooley Communications

Why we’re different and why it matters when you’re trying to hire an agency

Say you’re a company that wants to communicate with people who you think should care about what you’re doing — how do you know which agency to hire? Not the first one that pops up on Google, that’s for sure.

Marketing, advertising and public relations (PR) agencies all tend to get placed under the same umbrella by virtue that we all creatively communicate with audiences on behalf of clients.

Traditionally, marketing was all about the four P’s: product, price, place and promotion. By this definition, advertising and public relations both fall under the ‘promotion’ category, and marketing is the catch-all term for everything else.

Now, the lines between all three are blurred, but that doesn’t mean that each type of agency doesn’t have specific services or areas of expertise. There’s no rule saying marketing agencies can’t offer PR strategies, for example, or that PR agencies can’t create paid advertising campaigns. It just means if you have a specific project in mind, having a good sense of what each type of agency does well can be helpful.

Each type of agency, and their expertise

Advertising agencies (especially those that have been around for a while) will always know the most about ad buys, and how to craft creative for this purpose. That’s their wheelhouse, and what they were built on.

Digital marketing and social media agencies are basically a free-for-all, but it’s best to go with experience and results in this category. This category is highly visual, so they’ll likely have a photographer, videographer and/or designer as part of their in-house team.

Marketing companies can do a bit of everything — they see a brand, understand their goals and prescribe whatever course of action will help them achieve success. This could mean re-branding, creating videos, redesigning their web design, launching paid ads, focusing on packaging, creating newsletters, working on partnerships and the list goes on.

Public relations agencies are writers, and media and content experts. We often function in a space where coverage is earned, and nothing is guaranteed. More and more these days, we’re creating the content for our clients, helping them build and manage websites, social media and media relations.

At Dooley Communications, we look for the story, the angle and the opportunity to share messages with the world through earned, owned and paid coverage as well as through trusted sources like influencers. In some cases, we have a hand in helping the client create brand journalism to attract media coverage. In other situations, the story comes knocking at the door and we help craft a response.

So why does any of this matter?

You wouldn’t want to call a marketing agency if there was a bomb threat and the media was knocking at your door. Some agencies are just more equipped to help you meet certain goals, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

When it comes down to it, the portfolio, clients and experience say the most about the agency and what they can do for you.

For instance, we’re a corporate PR agency but we also offer website design and brand journalism services (in addition to many other non-PR specific services). We have experience building highly functional websites and writing ongoing content strategies for clients like Cando Rail Services, Dental Image Therapy Centres and more.

One final thought: if you’re looking for a complete campaign, you probably can’t hit your lofty goals without thinking about all three. Marketing, advertising and public relations are different, but when brought together, it’s amazing what we can accomplish.

This year, for example, Think Shift (Winnipeg) engaged Dooley to provide media relations support on a large-scale national campaign. While they worked on the creative, advertising and overall branding, we handled media outreach. The collaborative spirit and different measurements of success contributed to the campaign to make it whole. Following this, we were approached again to work on another campaign that will be coming to fruition in the near future.

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