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Spot the difference

In her first column for Attire Bridal, Eleanor Lester, a PR and marketing professional with over 20 years' experience in fashion and online retail, discusses the difference between PR, marketing and advertising

Spot the difference: Image 1 Marketing, public relations and advertising a common misunderstanding is that these terms are interchangeable, when they are not. When I first meet a prospective client they are often confused by these terms so I thought I'd start my first article for Attire Bridal by trying to explain the differences between each of these terms.

First of all, think about your favourite brand:

* What made you decide to buy their product or stock it in your boutique?
* Was it because of the glossy packaging they used or you just loved the story behind the company?
* Have your read stories about the product or seen reviews in the media, whether print or online?
* Did you see their advert in a magazine or on TV, Facebook, Instagram or online?

Marketing milestones
According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably. In order to get your favourite brand to market, the company will have undertaken extensive research, focus groups, branding exercises, photography and a myriad of other things all designed to create a story around the product and make it attractive to you, their consumer. Having identified that there is a demand or a need for their service, the company now needs to get their messages out to you. This is where public relations and advertising play their part.

Public relations
According to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics. Going back to your favourite brand, what spurred you to make that purchase? If it was a technology product or fashion item, had you seen reviews of the product in your magazine of choice or website? Perhaps you saw an influencer review the product or do a live unboxing on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube? Do you ever wonder how the journalist or influencer found out about the product so that they could review it? This is where the company's PR will have been involved; they will be responsible for getting the brand's key messages out to the media so that you, their target market, can find out about their products and services. PR also works in other more subtle ways, if you follow a brand on social media, a blogger or an influencer, have you ever stopped to question why? The chances are it's because what they post resonates with you, it might be because they share great tips and advice, photos of their latest products or simply things that you are interested in. All of this helps them to build a relationship with you and maintain goodwill and understanding. Lastly, think about how the brand engages with you directly. Every time you visit their store, whether that's a bricks and mortar one or online, do you receive great customer service? Are you able to buy what you want? Do you get annoyed when they charge you for a bag, or gift wrapping? Each staff member you interact with plays their part in promoting the brand and developing your relationship with the company, the more positive your experience the more likely you are to recommend them, all of which is good for their PR in general.

Advertising differs from public relations in one key way. An advert is a paid for announcement that appears in the print, broadcast or online media. With PR, there is no direct financial transaction between the brand and the journalist, a journalist or blogger will have featured the product because they feel that it is something that their readers will be interested in. However, there are occasions when these lines are subtly blurred and that is when a company pays for advertorials and sponsored posts. This is where a brand pays to get an article into a magazine or onto a website. The brand pays for the advertising space but can then use it to publish a piece of promotional editorial. In these instances the articles should be flagged as either advertorials or sponsored posts so that readers are aware. The same applies to social media: if an influencer is paid to promote a product then they must state in the copy that it's an #Ad. In summary, marketing can be viewed as the canopy of an umbrella that uses public relations and advertising as its ribs which, in turn, help to create demand for a product and service that ultimately results in profit and sales for the company.