Marketing and advertising are fuzzy disciplines to begin with - ask 20 experts what the difference between the two is, and you'll get 20 diverse responses. Much of the business world stirs marketing and advertising together in one big bouillabaisse of methods to get products to prospects and clients. For professionals implementing marketing and advertising initiatives, however, it is important to understand that the terms are not synonymous.

Advertising is just one component, or subset, of marketing. Public relations, media planning, product pricing and distribution, sales strategy, customer support, market research and community involvement are all parts of comprehensive marketing efforts. As you market your company and its products or services, keep in mind all the facets that work together to constitute marketing:

A simple concept by definition, if not execution, marketing is every way you touch a prospect or customer. That includes tools such as paid advertising, and it also includes dozens of smaller variables, everything from how your receptionist answers the phone, to how an order is fulfilled, to the positive or negative buzz about your product.

According to Kathleen Micken, assistant professor of marketing for the Gabelli School of Business at Roger Williams University, "Marketing might be defined as everything an organization does to facilitate an exchange between itself and its customers/clients. Advertising is just one of many marketing activities." Steven R. Jolly, owner of SRJ Marketing Communications, a marketing and design firm in Dallas, Texas adds, "Marketing is the sum total of all impressions and advertising is part of the impressions that must be managed. And, of course, advertising has a hard dollar cost associated."

Many marketing departments are, whether by choice or design, insulated from other business functions such as sales and customer support. It's this separation that causes a disconnect between a company's intended aim of getting new customers, and the actual follow through. For example, think of receiving an offer via direct mail for a new website that offers you the B2B solutions you've been looking to buy. The mail piece is well designed, clearly written, and you're ready to know more. So you dutifully check out the company's website, and send an email with your specifications for a vendor relationship. Then you wait. And wait. And wait. When you get no response, the company's expensive, well-targeted campaign has been wasted. This happens frequently, and it's indicative of just how interdependent all your marketing efforts truly are - and how much more there is to marketing than just creating your ads.

All marketing elements must work independently, as well as interdependently. One way to visualize this is to think of building your dream home: You need the right land, architect, general contractor, electrician, plumber and painter. All of the individuals must be able to stand on their own, as well as work together for the bigger goal of building the perfect home. If you think of public relations as your general contractor, market research as your electrician, and advertising as your painter, you'll see how necessary it is for all pieces to stand alone, and mesh for one unified purpose.

Advertising is the largest expense of most marketing plans, with public relations and market research rounding out the trinity of cash outlay. Advertising, according to Barron's Dictionary of Marketing Terms, is the "paid form of a nonpersonal message communicated through various media. [It] is persuasive and informational and is designed to influence the purchasing behavior and/or thought patterns of the audience."

According to Donna P. Anderson, APR, marketing and practice development director for Andrews & Kurth L.L.P, an international law firm, "Advertising is a tactic, or specific activity conducted to implement a strategic marketing or public relations plan. Advertising may be one of the tools used to meet a goal."

Advertising includes direct mail, newspapers, magazines, television, radio, Internet and out of house (billboards). When selecting the best advertising venues, you will need to consider your budget, target audience and message. A "media mix" is almost always necessary to get the penetration you need - a mix of radio, television and direct mail for example. Because your prospective client is bombarded by thousands of ads each day, you cannot depend on just one advertising vehicle.

Frequency is also an important part of any advertising campaign - if you are running print ads in a monthly publication, you will need to augment the monthly buy with more regular ads, say in a weekly or daily publication, television or radio. Don't try to spread your budget too thin - a scattershot approach is rarely effective. If you can't dedicate a healthy portion of your media budget to a particular venue, don't spend any at all. For example don't "test" radio by running two spots per week, and then rule it out as ineffective when you aren't deluged by leads. If you've got a little extra give in your budget, beef up areas where you already advertise. You may add color to your print ads or buy weather sponsorships on your current radio flight.

To select the right media mix, carefully narrow down your target audience. Use media that targets your primary prospect group, and then hit the same demographic over and over again to stay top of mind. Media selection can be mind numbing, as there's an avalanche of outlets to tell your story. To make the best selection, you must first determine your #1 objective - is it to introduce a new product? Create an immediate call to action? Reaffirm your brand's position and dominance? Know your target intimately - if you are courting 35-49-year-old Chief Technology Officers, don't even think about superfluous "nice to have" Corporate Financial Officers. Know what your target reads, where he works, how many children he has, what he does in his spare time, how he likes his eggs.

You should know your media as well as you know your target audience. If you're thinking about running weekly ads in the hottest industry publication, read several issues, and get an understanding of the tone and feel of the publication. Study the ads - are your competitors using the forum? If so, they may have already done much of your legwork regarding its efficacy. Ask your media sales representative to provide you with demographic and psychographic data on circulation, listenership or viewership. If you are buying print, you'll want audited circulation numbers, for television you'll be looking for Nielsen ratings, and for radio Arbitron is the arbiter of what station is tops.

When preparing your cost analysis of various media outlets, include a cost per thousand (CPM) column. Cost per thousand tells you how much it costs to reach 1000 people. Cost per thousand is by no means the only indicator of what to buy, but it will serve as a good "stake in the ground" for your comparisons. It will also alert you when a media schedule is out of whack with comparable buys.

Advertising works. The biggest brands in the world have proven that time and time again. But businesses often struggle to know just what ads are hitting their target, and which are fodder for the junk heap. Because advertising is expensive, trackability is paramount. Each campaign must be quantified: How many new leads did your ad produce? How many leads converted to clients? And for long range planning, how many of the new accounts did you retain? What was the cost to acquire each new account? Should you refocus your efforts on retaining customers, or are you after building client volume? Advertising without trackability is a waste, because if you don't know what's working, you don't know what's not working.

Arguably the finest way to impact your audience favorably is through public relations. Public relations is building a rapport with your audience by working with the media to tell your story. Though the actual article or item about your issue or business does not require payment to the media, public relations is not free, cheap or easy. It is, however, very cost effective when placed alongside an advertising budget. And because the media is relaying your message, rather than a paid ad, public relations offers a "legitimacy that paid advertising does not have," according to Barrons.

The term "PR" has racked up some negative connotations - some of which are deserving, and some of which are bunk. Public relations practitioners range from expert communicators with a laundry list of media contacts, to the slick and oily variety. It is imperative that your company understands its unified message to the public, and works with honest and ethical public relations pros to disseminate that message.

Working with local, national and international media takes skill, tenacity and money. There are several ways to get the word out about your product or service with the objective of garnering positive media attention. The press release is the basic tool, and more extensive (and expensive) press kits are often utilized as well. In addition to a PR package that is created for a large cross section of the media, pitches directly to editors, writers and segment producers can be very effective.

There are many methods of delivering your news into the hands of the appropriate media. There's the old-fashioned snail-mail media kit, electronic distribution through your own media list or with the aid of a distribution service, faxing for short releases and press advisories, and overnight delivery services if you want to make a big impression.

Be aware that media decision-makers for large outlets receive an overwhelming number of pitches each day, enough to cram their desks with paper and fill up their email inboxes. So before you whip up a 4-color press kit, be sure to ask yourself some very basic, if sometimes painful, questions: Is what I am announcing newsworthy? Is it a fit for the audience of the media outlet I'm pitching? Am I offering something new, or something old in a new way? Is my news timely - does it have a tie-in to current events?

When you do receive a response from a journalist or producer about your news, be ready to roll. Media folks work under very strict deadlines, with little time to work around your schedule. Be flexible, available, courteous, and ready to provide them with plenty of background material. Public relations people are often reviled by the media, so your preparation and follow through will serve you well. Keep in mind that you are building a relationship with the media, just as you are with clients.

As wonderful as public relations may be, there is a trade off for not paying for your message to be broadcast. Once you've given the interview, your message is in the hands of someone else to relay it. Remember those unscrupulous PR people? Well there are matching media types as well, looking to fit your comments in to a story that has their own spin. It's because of this potential downside of public relations that you must be vigilant about relaying a unified and consistent message - from the CEO to the customer service representatives.

Marketing is a tough concept to get your arms around. Much of what goes into a plan is amorphous - other than your print collateral, there are few tangibles. Many marketers become frustrated and overwhelmed by the need to constantly feed the 24/7 marketing beast. It is helpful to break marketing down to its individual components, and to understand that there are unique benefits and pitfalls for each piece that goes into your plan. Remember that it is better to do a few things well, than many things poorly. Synergy rules all successful marketing efforts - the objectives for your advertising and public relations initiatives should always lead back to your singular mission.

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image of Kimberly McCall

Kimberly McCall is director of marketing at Avance Care, a primary care provider offering convenient, cost-effective healthcare services. She is responsible for all marketing strategies to build, preserve, and enhance the Avance brand.

LinkedIn: Kimberly McCall