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Advertising, Marketing, & PR


Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to a target audience, which can include customers, investors, clients, or the general public. Through marketing, an organization anticipates the needs of potential customers and then positions itself to satisfy those needs. 

The 4Ps of marketing are product, price, promotion and place.  Product is the research and development of the product or service.  Price is driven by the market and the pricing strategy for the product.  Place is where and how the product  is distributed.  Promotion involves the messaging and communications that attract consumers to purchase the product. 

Examples of traditional approaches to marketing are print, radio, television, billboards, direct mail, and referrals.  Digital marketing uses internet technology, including search engines, websites, email, mobile phones and social media platforms for promotion. 

Advertising, public relations, market research, development, product distribution, customer support and sales are all strategic functions within the marketing field. 


Advertising is a form of paid marketing communication that drives a target audience to take a desired action.  It is commonly used to encourage or persuade behavior with respect to a product, service, political campaign or ideology.  Advertising connects quantitative and qualitative research with the creative process.  

Advertising agency clients include businesses, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.  Work with clients focuses on the messaging for a specific brand or product developed by that client.  Advertising agencies help their clients determine how to define that brand or product by providing guidance on strategy, concept, development and execution. 

Public Relations 

Public Relations (PR) is the process of strategically and deliberately managing the communication from an organization to the public.  PR professionals work with anyone seeking to promote an image or message to the public, including businesses, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and individuals.  

PR professionals share information on behalf of their clients through print and broadcast media by pitching story ideas to reporters.  Other tasks a PR professional may perform on behalf of a client include crafting press releases, developing an overall communication strategy, managing negative publicity, crisis communication, and delivering appropriate messages to an audience. 

Similarities and differences

The terms “marketing,” “advertising” and “public relations” are often used interchangeably, but there are some key differences between the three fields. 

Field Marketing Advertising Public Relations
Definition A comprehensive effort to promote a product or service on behalf of a client through the use of a combination of strategic techniques and promotional activities. A component of the marketing process focused on the creative promotion of a product or service A component of the marketing process focused on specialized communication and messaging
Final Goal To strategically bring a product to market that consumers will buy To build awareness about a product or service to prompt immediate reaction from consumers To build a positive rapport with an audience through strategically crafted messages in the media and relationships with stakeholders
Key Contacts Advertisers, researchers, public relations professionals, media planners, distributors,

sales consultants, customer service professionals

Clients, other advertising professionals, media sales professionals

Print and broadcast media journalists, event planners

Skills to develop for success in advertising and marketing

  • Analytical Thinking
    • Analyze consumer data
    • Competitive analysis
    • Devising market plans
    • Researching media outlets
    • Statistical skills 
  • Communication (verbal and written)
    • Active listening
    • Motivating others
    • Networking
    • Presentation skills
    • Teamwork and leadership 
  • Creative Thinking
    • Adaptability and flexibility
    • Customer focus
    • Innovation
    • Problem solving
    • Storytelling 
  • Media Skills
    • Brand strategy
    • Digital media
    • Media planning
    • Media strategy
    • Search engine optimization 
  • Project management
    • Analysis
    • Budget management
    • Coordination
    • Planning and time management
    • Understanding data and metrics 
  • Technology
    • Create Social Media Strategy
    • Developing keywords for search engine optimization
    • Graphic design
    • Learning presentation software
    • Utilizing statistical packages 

Skills to develop for success in public relations

  • Communication
    • Create Press Releases
    • Media Relations and Outreach
    • Speech Writing
    • Website copy
    • Written Communications 
  • Creative Thinking
    • Brainstorming
    • Event planning
    • Innovation
    • Problem Solving
    • Tact 
  • Global/Intercultural Fluency
    • Audience Segmentation
    • Bilingual/Multilingual
    • Collaboration
    • Diversity
    • Emotional Intelligence 
  • Research
    • Deductive/Inductive Reasoning
    • Interviews
    • Library Research
    • Primary/Secondary Sources
    • Search Engine Research 
  • Social Media
    • Analysis
    • Content Marketing
    • Digital Marketing
    • Scheduling Posts
    • Social Media Releases 
  • Time Management
    • Attention to detail
    • Multitasking
    • Organizing
    • Prioritizing
    • Project Management  

Online resources specific to the industry

  • Vault is a comprehensive resource for information on what it is like to work within an industry, company or profession. 

Job posting and other career informational sites relevant to the field:   

Industry Insights/Information 

  • Ad Age: Provides news, analysis, and data on marketing and media. 
  • Ad Week: Great source to research new ad campaigns, client-agency relationships, and accounts in review.
  • O’Dwyer’s: Highlights top stories in Communication and PR as well as ranking agencies.
  • PR News: daily intellectual hub that serves the communications and marketing community at corporations, agencies and nonprofits.
  • PR Week: the leading source of news, analysis, features & jobs for the Public Relations industry. 

Key information or knowledge for this field

  • While marketing, public relations, and advertising all intersect, they are distinctive fields requiring unique skill sets. Explore the differences and similarities between the fields through networking opportunities. Ask those in the field, “what do you love about your work and what is most challenging?”   
  • Opportunities in these fields exist both at agencies that specialize in this work, and “in-house” working directly for the client. It is not uncommon to do both over the course of your career as you explore what work environment best suits you.  
  • Like many industries, internships in marketing, advertising and public relations serve as important pipelines to full time opportunities. Particularly in advertising and public relations, completing an internship post-graduation is common. These positions function as apprenticeships for entry into agency life.  
  • Be prepared to showcase your work through portfolios, writing samples, and other documents beyond traditional resumes and cover letters as part of an application process. For some students interested in pursuing a creative position within advertising or marketing, Portfolio (or “finishing”) School can be one way to build up design skills and develop a personal portfolio. Portfolio School is not a graduate program; students do not receive a degree upon completion. It is simply an opportunity to build design and creative advertising skills. This is an option for students looking to gain design skills in a hands-on, intensive, professional setting.  
  • How brands are built today is in flux, and digital experience, analytics and creativity are all key drivers of business. You will need to demonstrate a message’s impact and effectiveness. It is critical to show some understanding on how digital and social media influence brands. Think about what social channels you follow on a regular basis, how you take inspiration from the world around you, and how your own social platforms can be an excellent showcase for sharing your point of view.  

Relevant student groups and professional organizations

Northwestern Student Groups:  

External Professional Organizations: 

Special considerations for graduate students

Gain Experience
Experience related to advertising, marketing, and PR, even in an unpaid capacity, will help you in your search for full-time work in these fields. Consider taking on marketing responsibilities for student group events, taking an internship, or volunteering to help with a marketing-related project.

Get Connected
Join LinkedIn groups to learn more about careers in these fields and to connect with insiders. For example, join the “Market Research Professionals” group to read updates on trends in market research. Also, talk to alumni working in these fields. You can find them via and through the Northwestern University Alumni group on LinkedIn.

Common Career directions for PHDs
Market Research
Scientific Marketing