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I recently started small business. What I want to know is: What's the difference between branding, advertising, marketing and PR? What's the same? Do I need one department in charge of all of those functions, or should each have its own department?
Dear Hype Hopeful,
Here is the advice from eight ProfNet experts on the convergence and divergence of branding, advertising, PR and marketing:
"Branding creates the strategy. Marketing maps out the plan for disseminating the brand. Advertising buys the opportunities to raise awareness. PR relies on relationships for media mentions," says Rob Frankel, branding expert, author and speaker, and founder of i-legions and PeerMailing.com:
Branding is the overall goal of advertising, marketing and PR, says Mark Scott, seasoned PR, advertising and marketing professional and founder of Mark Scott PR. It's about getting consumers to understand what your brand offers, what it stands for, how to interact with it, how to consume it, etc.
The point of branding is to create an image for a product, service, community, etc., and then work in tandem with marketing, advertising and PR to bring those elements to fruition, agrees Zlata Faerman, founder of ZlataPR. "This is where it all starts," she says.
It's used to shape the customer or prospect's perception of your business, explains Shel Horowitz, author of several award-winning books on marketing, including the recent Amazon best-seller "Guerilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet." Not only through logo, slogan, colors, etc., but also the perception of experience with your business. For instance, customer service is an attribute that plays very strongly in the branding mix.
Linda Pophal, owner and CEO of Strategic Communications, explains branding as a way to establish a "personality" for a company, product or service in the minds of a target group.
But brand strategy defines what the company is as well, as what it is not, says Frankel. He recommends developing a company's brand strategy just once, and preferably by an outsider, since internal departments can be too focused on their own agendas or too influenced by corporate politics.
"Once the branding strategy is defined, it is handed off to advertising and PR to raise its awareness," Frankel continues. "Allowing advertising and PR to create or develop brand strategy is a key error that many companies commit. The fact is that advertising and PR skills sets are devoted to raising the awareness of a brand strategy -- not creating it."
Advertising is simply the visual aspect of the branding plan, says Faerman.
Its objective is to communicate offers to target audiences, says Gerard Corbett, chair-elect of the Public Relations Society of America.
Horowitz notes that advertising is about paying to reach a customer by buying ad space. "You have total control of the content, for which you pay to exhibit," he explains.
And Scott agrees: Advertising is paid media exposure.
In contrast to paid media exposure, public relations is earned media exposure, Scott continues.
The goal of PR is to introduce an organization, and then secure awareness, recognition and adoption, says Rob Gelphman, chair of Marketing Work Group at Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA).
PR is the creative and strategic campaigns created to support the branding of a product, service or community, explains Faerman. "It deals primarily with media relations and its main point is to bring said products to the media and in turn to consumers via a plethora of available media outlets."
It's about advocacy, relationship-building and trust, says Corbett.
By using direct outreach, via traditional or social media, PR influences the public's perception of an organization, product or service, says Horowitz.
"Advertising communicates what you offer; marketing communicates what clients get," says Vicki Rackner, executive director at The Pain Stompers Foundation, founder of The Caregiver Club and owner of Medical Bridges. "The difference is where the spotlight shines."
Marketing is about the process and strategy of solving a customer's need and delivering on that need through various channels, says Corbett.
The goal of marketing is to increase awareness and influence people to take action, says Horowitz. Marketing might influence someone to buy something, change an opinion or change a lifestyle pattern, he says.
Marketing includes functions of PR and advertising, says Scott, but it also includes other things like events, sponsorships, trade shows, product promotions, search engine marketing or search engine optimization and more.
If branding is the objective, then marketing is the strategy, says Gelphman. And therefore, advertising and PR are the tactics.
To sum it all up, marketing is strategy, advertising and PR are tactics, and branding is the objective, says Gelphman.
"While there are many differences between advertising, marketing, branding and public relations -- they very often go hand-in-hand," says Faerman. For example, an advertising agency works in tandem with a public relations agency to make sure specific campaigns are aligned and support one another.
Scott agrees: The convergence of the disciplines is coming together more and more, he says. The best marketers, advertisers, public relations professionals and branders are going to be the people who understand this and work to leverage that convergence.
There's lots and lots of overlap, concurs Horowitz. Companies run into problems when they allow these function to become siloed.
For example, many TV shows require some kind of sponsorship or audience giveaway to get a company spokesperson booked or to get a brand mentioned on air, says Scott. "It's not just about having a very interesting guest or a great news pitch," he says. "If you're not a celebrity, a little girl who fell down a well or the star of some viral video, these shows are harder and harder to get on. Marketers who don't understand this miss out on opportunities. The power here is when you have advertising, product marketing and PR people working together with the shows to craft the best opportunity."
In the social media space, there's even more convergence, says Scott. A marketing department might control the budget for creating a branded Facebook page, providing product giveaways, but it is usually the PR pros that engage in authentic conversations with reporters and editors at media outlets or potential customers on the trade show floor. "If you miss this convergence opportunity and have advertising people sharing advertising-speak in the social media realm, you may quickly lose followers and reduce the value of this channel," he says.
News distribution services, like PR Newswire, used to be primarily aimed at traditional media, says Scott. "Now, press releases distributed via these channels are searchable online and are automatically picked up by hundreds of websites." Not only must your press release convey key information to the media, it must also be considered a branding tool, since it will be seen by members of the general public.
Scott also notes that press releases can add value to the company's overall SEM/SEO strategy. "A well-written, SEO-optimized press release offers tremendous value to a company's overall branding and marketing efforts," he says.
So the functions of branding, advertising, PR and marketing must be coordinated and used in combination to achieve overall goals and objectives, says Pophal. She recommends keeping all functions under one overall "leader."
"There might be separate departments to handle PR and advertising, but both of those departments should report up through a single structure so that all of the communication activities are coordinated and aligned in support of the desired brand identity or image," she says.
There's no reason to distinguish functions from each other, aside from the different skills individuals need to perform those functions, she continues.
However, Corbett disagrees and says there is not much overlap between these departments, assuming all departments agree on strategy and messaging: "Implementation of each is through different channels," he says. The core message and mission are consistent and must be consistent, but whether each department should operate separately really depends on the size and scope of an organization.
Who's in Charge?
In terms of hierarchy, PR leads the charge and uniform messaging for an enterprise, asserts Corbett. Advertising, branding and marketing departments take their cues from the PR function in terms of how to go to market, in what form and fashion, and with what messaging, he says. It sets the strategy, and leads the other disciplines in the methods and processes to sustain consistency with audiences.
But Horowitz believes that these functions should all be part of the marketing department, where people can cross-feed and cross-pollinate, to bring all of the pieces together in a coherent and self-reinforcing program. "Advertising, branding and PR are all subsets (and not the only subsets) of marketing," says Horowitz. "Advertising and PR are also partial subsets of branding."
What do you think?