Media Relations, Marketing, Advertising: 

What’s The Difference!

Often times media relations gets mistaken for marketing and advertising by most entities. This confusion always leads to 4DPR Strategies providing a tutorial on how to differentiate media relations, marketing and advertising. Understanding and knowing the differences that exist allow entities the opportunity to make better informed decisions, when choosing one or a combination of the three to fit entity goals and objectives. 

Most are familiar with marketing and advertising, but might not have heard about media relations as much. Media relations is the strategic two-way communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships and interactions between entities and various media outlets (i.e. newspapers, radio, blogs, podcasts) whose sole purpose is to secure editorial or third-party endorsement coverage. That includes entity messaging for vested publics such as clients, customers and shareholders. Media relations is a function of public relations (PR).

With media relations defined, differences when compared to marketing and advertising mainly exist along four distinct components—messaging, placement, control and credibility:

  1. Messaging: Brand messaging is very important as this defines who and what an entity will say to its vested publics. As such, you want entity messaging as complete and clear as possible. When using media relations, assist messaging by communicating and providing entity specific messaging to media outlet editors and producers, as they control final messaging approval for their  outlets. Whereas with marketing and advertising, all messaging decisions and approvals remain with the entity. In other words, entities decide where and how often the messaging is to be communicated.
  2. Placement: The placement of messaging can be very important and crucial for entities. Sometimes, the right placement can create a competitive advantage over an entity’s competitors. When utilizing media relations, all placement is determined by media outlet editors and producers, although entity suggestions are encouraged. Whereas with marketing and advertising, the entity determines the where and how of placement.
  3. Control: Once entity messaging and placement are finalized, control over messaging and placement will be determined. With media relations, all control remains with media outlets. While marketing and advertising, all control remains with the entity, as this is included with service payments.
  4. Credibility: Messaging, placement and control are three very important components of media relations, marketing and advertising. However the most valuable and intangible component is credibility. Media relations activities that result in secured editorial or third-party endorsement coverage translates to increased levels of credibility. A consumer’s trust in secured endorsements is a rate over 90%*; contrast that with marketing and advertising activities, where the consumer trust rate falls to 50%*, a huge disparity and drop off.

All media relations, marketing and advertising activities have the potential to offer effectiveness and be beneficial for achieving entity goals and objectives, whether utilizing one or a combination of the three. And based on the four component— messaging, placement, control and credibility— media relations provides the most potential and opportunity for increased consumer trust when contrasted against marketing and advertising. This consumer trust can be more valuable and vital to an entity and its longevity.

Understanding and knowing what differentiates media relations, marketing or advertising is extremely important for entities on their journey to achieve their goals and objectives for success. 

*Zhang, Kimberly. “As Consumer Trust Thins, Marketers Must Pivot to Earned Media.” Cision US Blog, October 2, 2019, /as-consumer-trust-thins–marketers-must-pivot-to-earned-media/.