As someone in the marketing world, I get introduced all the time as a publicist. This drives me crazy, not because I have the alphabet soup after my name that I'm very proud of, but because it means people just don't understand the differences between marketing, branding, PR and advertising. Here are the basics you need to know to speak intelligently on the topic.

Marketing

Let's start with marketing because it is the umbrella under which all of these other industries live. And that's exactly how you should look at it. It's an umbrella that covers, branding, messaging, online presence, content, social media, PR, advertising, research...you name it, it's under the greater canopy of marketing.

Branding

This area of marketing includes the visual elements of a company. It includes everything from the logo to the color theory and how the logo is used on different marketing collateral, which is just a fancy name for websites, business cards, letterhead, etc.

The brand is one of the most important parts of developing or reinvigorating your company. It's all about what emotions you want someone to feel when they come into initial contact.

One of the best ways to develop your branding is to start with picking 3-5 logos that you like and 3-5 logos that you don't like and describe in as much detail as possible, why. You can decide things like whether you like figurative or abstract logos, whether you like objects in them or simple font treatments.

One of my favorite agency exercises is going through a simple brainstorm. Put down all the adjectives that you think relate to your business on one side and put down the type of client you are trying to attract on the other. This will give you a great starting point prior to engaging a graphic designer or an agency to develop the overarching brand identity.

Some say it's just a logo...tell that to Nike.

PR

PR or public relations is all about getting your brand out there, but I can't tell you how many times I've had clients approach our agency after having been burned by a PR firm.

Usually it's their fault frankly for not understanding how PR works, but it's also symptomatic of a larger issue and the whole point of this article. PR is very relationship driven, so if you're going to hire a PR agency, make sure it's one that has expertise in your specific market.

Don't hire a publicist in the food and beverage space if you're in technology (unless of course it's the next great food app). Make sure you set reasonable expectations and goals for your agency.

There is a big difference between long and short-lead media, which is exactly what it sounds like. And not all media "hits" are created equal. PR is only one of the marketing tools, and in order to be effective, you have to have a great online presence and consumer standing to back it up.

But most importantly, be honest with yourself about PR. Will it actually help your company, or is it really just fluffing your ego?

Advertising

Like PR, advertising is an outbound marketing approach. With the wonderful world of digital, there are boundless new opportunities to use this space that are extremely cost effective.

The first thing to understand is the difference between traditional and new media advertising. Traditional advertising includes things like print ads, billboards, newspaper, radio and broadcast and cable television.

New media includes Google AdWords, social media advertising, video pre-roll and banner ads, just to name a few. The great thing about new media advertising is its inherent traceability, which is why it's taken off like wildfire in the on demand era.

Again like PR, it's important to pick areas that engage your target market. New media specifically has the ability to be extremely granular as it relates to the demographics and psychographics of your target market, as well as the ability to name your own price on certain platforms, which is why everyone can and should play in this space.

All of these arenas of marketing can exist in a silo, however smart brands know that you need a sprinkle of each, and much more importantly, a strategy behind it all on how to leverage each of the opportunities in the verticals where they're spending money.

Ultimately, while marketing is an umbrella which encompasses all of the above and more, the handle of that umbrella is sales. As such, all messaging should be consistent and have strong calls to action to drive the bottom line revenue.

Now you know the difference and hopefully have a better understanding of how to approach marketing strategy and execution for your business. So in the $400 Jeopardy category, what is marketing, Alex?