FACT: Vague understanding of the basic terms of a subject causes inaction or incorrect application.  

In today’s iffy economy, many business owners are stymied when it comes to the crucial questions having to do with bringing in new business:  “What to market?”  “How to market?” “Who to market to?” and all of these with the underlying consideration— “What will be my ROI?”  “Marketing” itself constitutes a large umbrella, under which many different parts of the business can fall, and there is a very basic confusion which lies in not fully understanding this and how each area contributes to the overall picture.

There are many aspects of marketing, each with its own specific purpose and actions, and together these add up to the product of “getting you into and exchanging in the marketplace.”  Leave one or more of these out, combine actions which should be separated, or emphasize the wrong one for your business, and you won’t get the results you need.  Especially in the case of many small business owners, if you ask, all they want is more sales or more customers; the more savvy ones include increasing brand awareness as well.  These are definitely things that “marketing” can do for them. But WHAT marketing? More publicity? Better public relations? Promotion?  When business owners have confusions or misunderstandings on these terms and what actions belong to each, they can end up either throwing money randomly at the next “hot” marketing program without a clue as to whether it’s appropriate for their business, or throwing money at the wrong provider for a service and not understanding why they don’t get results. We have instances like demanding a promotional program from a PR person, or asking for publicity from a design firm, or —committing the worst offense in my book—having their “tech guy” do their marketing, because he knows computers, and the website is on the computer, so he can also do the website—yikes!

As in any confusion, the way to make sense of it all is to break it down and look at the elements involved—in this manner we can often see our way more clearly through the morass of decisions and actions which need to be done in order to build a solid customer base for your brand.  Business owners are shouting for more attention for their brands, sometimes without being sure of what type of attention they need. The goal of this article is clear up the melding of five major terms: marketing, promotion, advertising, publicity and public relations.

It can be found that just straightening up the terms themselves may change the look of a business’ balance sheet, because real success for a business follows using the correct estimation of effort while controlling the direction of that effort. Understanding what the most basic terms signify becomes the first building block for your marketing strategy. Conversely, NOT understanding these terms can leave you with a shaky foundation in marketing your products or services.  So here we have it, per our favorite reference source for management terminology — Modern Management Technology Defined*:

Marketing: The conceiving and packaging and the moving of a specific product into the public hands. It means to prepare and take to and place in the hands of the market in such a way as to obtain maximum potential and recompense.

As one can see per this definition, the term “marketing” is the overall umbrella covering the entire activity of getting your product or service into exchange on the market—from it’s creation to its distribution. Understanding this, business owners can break down the areas of operation and ensure that each is established and functioning properly in order to satisfy the last part of the definition: “in such a way as to obtain maximum potential and recompense.” This will include really analyzing and putting into place efficient and effective processes for development, market analysis, finance, promotion, sales, manufacturing or servicing, distribution and quality control. And conversely, if one fully understands this definition, one can isolate more easily which of these areas are weak and need attention in order to make the product profitable.

Promotion: To make something known and well thought of. Promotion is the art of offering something that will be responded to. It consists only of what to offer and how to offer it that will be responded to. By promotion we mean “reach the public and create want.”

It is common for the terms marketing and promotion to be used interchangeably, and this is a large cause for confusion for business owners as these two definitions clearly have very different meanings — promotion being a part of the marketing machine. The full definition for promotion needs to be known well as it emphasizes the idea of getting response and creating want for the product or service. Too often promotion is done without enough data to create the necessary effect. The answer to this is market research and surveys. Know your market, know your competition, know your customers, and craft your promotion in such a way as to answer their needs and desires.

Advertising: An action done to call public attention to a product or service by presenting it to the public via mass media. The object is to inform public enough to create interest, demand or favorable opinion for the thing advertised which then increases sales or usage.

The key distinction here between advertising and promotion is the use of mass media channels for advertising. Note that it is not the quantity we are talking about, but the communication channels it is being placed on. Sending out 100,000 direct mailers would be a promotional action; promoting your product in a magazine with 100,000 circulation would be an advertising action. Note also that per our definition we are aiming to create interest, demand, or favorable opinion. This last is where we get into the very effective advertising technique of positioning your company, product or service in a way to create an association with something familiar to your audience.

Publicity: Any message, notice, event etc., usually channeled through the media that brings a person, product or condition to public notice. What it is that is brought to the public’s attention and how it is presented determines whether public opinion is going to be favorable or unfavorable toward that which is publicized. Publicity is a synonym to advertising but advertising usually costs more, concentrates harder on the public buying something and usually directs public attention more specifically to the features of a product or service.

Knowing the differences between advertising and publicity can open the door to a host of actions you might not think of, when promoting your brand or it’s products. Common examples of publicity actions would be book signings by the author or free samples of the seasonal coffee flavor at a gourmet cafe.

Public Relations: 1. In the field of public relations ‘good works well publicized’ is one of the definitions, which they give in a textbook on the subject, that’s supposed to be the perfect definition of PR, couldn’t be further from the truth—effective cause well demonstrated—you see they need a few little refinements. Then you make forward progress. 2. The art of making good works well known.

Notice how our definition above departs subtly but significantly from the traditional definition. Per this, one engaging in Public Relations must operate at cause in the marketplace. This means being on top of what is trending, being timely with your messaging, being effective in what you are doing to create favorable public opinion. Notice as well that it is the art of making good works well known. Good PR involves a certain creativity; innovation will gain more public notice than doing the same thing everyone else is doing. Which “good works” are being publicized depends on what you are trying to achieve. PR would cover the gamut from running and publicizing a holiday clothing drive for the needy, to ensuring your office or shop is clean and professional in appearance so that customers gain a favorable impression of your operation.

When you get down to it, truly understanding where to direct your business’ resources and energy is vital to its survival, and understanding exactly what those areas are and how they relate to each other opens the door to efficiency and results. Give your public relations staff a promotional task and wonder why they are struggling? Now you know! Get your organization straightened out on the above terms, give them the right directions and start growing your company to the next level.

*Modern Management Technology Defined, © 1976 L. Ron Hubbard, All Rights Reserved.

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