Communications? Marketing? PR? Is There a Difference?

Communications Versus Pubic Relations, Marketing and Advertising. What’s the difference?

Question: I hear the term communication strategy more and more these days. It seems to be used interchangeably with marketing, public relations, adverting and sales. So what gives? Is there a difference between communications and all those other processes? Are they all the same thing or or is the term "communications" just another buzz word?

Answer: Good question. Many small businesses lump all of these into a rich, soupy mix, which is okay by the way. What’s important is to know the importance that each role plays, and to use it appropriately and independently.

Marketing addresses business strategy, competition, SWOT analyses (internal and external strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats), as well as examining environmental forces such as trends, innovations and the economy. At one time, four "P's" dominated the marketing mix: product, price, place and promotion, which refer to product positioning and competitive differentiation; pricing analysis and strategy; place or distribution methods, which includes both physical and electronic means; and promotion strategy that determines the most appropriate and effective sales strategies and advertising channels. Since then, people, process and physical environment have been added to traditional marketing strategy.

SIVA (Solution, Information, Value and Access), is a relatively new marketing concept and pertains to social media marketing strategies. Solution refers to products that make the buyer feel justified. Information includes blogs and interactive forums that teach and share. Value focuses not so much on price but on the product's intrinsic attributes. Access affords a broad range of purchasing outlets that allow the client to choose when and how to acquire the product. It includes virtual venues such as e-commerce outlets, shopping channels, and on-line catalogues.

All of these are these are used to form a plan for putting your product ahead of the competition using hard data to back up your ideas.

Public Relations is as the name suggests - relationships open to public view and subject to public opinion. It's about trust. It focuses on your organization's reputation, whether it be not for profit, government or market driven. It is often media centred but in reality, is so much more. Public Relations is rooted in psychology, sociology, politics, ethics and science. It's about creating positive relationships, soliciting feedback and doing the right things to ensure your organization is viewed in its best possible light by its publics no matter the circumstance.

Advertisements are persuasive messages using the 3 principles of rhetoric: Logos - the logic behind your argument; Ethos - the value or authority that gives credibility to your argument; and Pathos - messages that speak to the heart, and make people care about your argument. These principles also support marketing's five “P’s,” - product, price, promotion, place and people. It promotes your product’s unique benefits, features, and product differentiation. Advertising messages ebb and flow depending on the product's life stage, and usually offers a reward or other incentive to purchase or take action within a specified time frame.

Advertising, PR, and Marketing fall under the communications umbrella. Communications is about connecting your product, your cause, your crisis, your message, or your service to your stakeholders using the best medium, whether it be newspaper, television, direct mail, social media, or any other channel appropriate to the situation.

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