Should learn SEO from PR agencies

PR, advertising, content marketing, social media - how do the agencies differ?

In order to make their own company better known, to improve its image and / or to increase sales, many companies seek outside help. To be more precise: you hire an agency. But when looking for a service provider, the question arises: What do I actually need? Because not all agencies are the same. PR, advertising, content marketing, social media - there are many specialized service providers in the agency landscape who cover one or more of these disciplines. So what's the difference?

In Germany, the majority of agencies are rather small. According to the last structural survey in the service sector of the Federal Statistical Office, carried out in 2018, it is mainly individual companies that shape the image of the industry. The large agency groups that combine different disciplines are correspondingly expensive and are more likely to be commissioned by large companies. Overall, the smaller sole proprietorships make up around 57 percent of advertising agencies in Germany. If you don't want to hire the big representatives of the industry directly, you will find a wealth of agency types: advertising or marketing, PR, content marketing or social media agencies. It is difficult for clients to see the subtle differences. For companies that have never worked with an agency, many questions arise: Which agency is suitable for which tasks? For example, what is the difference between an advertising agency and a PR agency? When should I hire a social media agency? And what exactly does a content marketing agency do? If you want to find the right agency for your purposes, you should know the differences between the disciplines. In this article we explain to you which core competencies the individual agency types bring and for whom they are suitable.

Difference between PR and advertising

Roughly summarized it can be said: Agencies, as service providers, advise their clients on advertising and communication measures. You conceive, plan and design individual measures and implement them. What differs between them is the specific focus. The term advertising agency is often used as a generic term synonymously for all types of agencies. Theoretically correct, because they all have a similar goal: to promote a company's awareness. However, when it comes to advertising and PR, a distinction has to be made: advertising or marketing ultimately aims to generate more sales. To do this, she uses direct advertising messages. PR, on the other hand, wants to strengthen the company's reputation. To do this, it relies less on advertising messages and argues as neutrally as possible. So while an advertising or marketing agency books an advertisement in a magazine, designs it and the client pays for it, the PR agency takes a different approach. For example, she uses journalist contacts to place the company's managing director with an interview or to publish a guest article. Such measures can then, for example, increase awareness, but also highlight the company's expertise. In addition, all agencies must consider whether they offer all the services themselves or whether they employ additional service providers via a network. For example for video shooting and editing or designers. It is important for clients to know the subtleties of the individual agency types and to be aware of what is required.

Advertising agencies - the all-rounders for advertising messages and communication

The marketing or advertising agency advises its clients on advertising measures and plans, designs and implements them. It makes use of various advertising platforms and advertising media. Since the media landscape has grown enormously in recent years due to new digital channels, advertising agencies often specialize. This results in the split into classic advertising agencies and internet agencies.

Classic advertising agencies mainly take on "analog" advertising measures via outdoor and print advertising as well as television and radio. Usually they focus on advertising and branding, making a brand known. If you want to advertise your products on advertising channels such as brochures, flyers, catalogs and posters, radio and television spots, you have come to the right place with classic advertising agencies. The well-known "give-aways", small promotional items, also fall within their area of ​​responsibility. Nowadays, many advertising agencies also offer digital formats. There are also various specialized providers on the market for these.

How does the internet agency differ from the advertising agency?

Internet agencies (web or digital agencies) concentrate on online advertising. You will take care of the web development, web design and online marketing of the clients' websites. If you want to find out more about agencies specializing in pure web design, you can find more information in our comparison. Internet agencies often offer additional expertise in search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEA) as well as the user-friendliness of websites. In addition, they are involved in the development of web shops and apps. How do you find the right internet agency? We have 8 tips for finding the right internet agency.

PR agencies - focus on public relations

The abbreviation PR stands for the English expression "Public Relations", which in German is referred to as public relations. The main focus of a PR agency is to position and maintain a positive corporate image in public. Therefore, things like crisis management and press work are among the core tasks of the PR agency. Unlike advertising agencies, the target groups of PR agencies are not only customers of the client, but also the media, employees and suppliers. This type of agency has a wide range of tasks. The services of a PR agency include:

  1. Press work (offline and online): Communication with journalists and editorial offices as well as the creation of press releases, press distribution lists and press events. The focus here is on classic media (print, television, radio) and online channels (online media portals, digital press kits and press conferences, etc.). PR agencies also set up contact with the editorial team, for example in order to place guest articles or arrange interviews.
  2. Crisis communication: You take on the crisis management on a communicative level and advise on possible measures. Answers to press questions are also prepared preventively in the event of a crisis.
  3. PR in sales: They explain products and offers from clients in a way that suits the target group and support sales staff. Standard sales PR tools include blog articles, white papers, videos, events and newsletters, for example.
  4. Internal communication: Internal PR uses the media commonly used in the company to address employees, suppliers, stakeholders and other internal interested parties. Such media include, for example, employee magazines and balance sheets.
  5. Personality PR: This type of PR is mostly used in politics and focuses on people. For example, interviews can be arranged, prepared and accompanied or the social media presence can be maintained, for example in the form of "curated content".
  6. Content Marketing: Along the customer journey, companies provide their customers and other interested parties with information with added value. With additional information, for example advice articles, clients want to use content marketing to increase the customers' trust in them without appearing (too) promotionally.
  7. Media monitoring:They provide their clients with reports on the PR measures taken. They collect data on publications about the client or one of his brands in various media. This is often done with a so-called monitoring tool.

The tasks of the PR agency are extensive. They range from press work and crisis communication to editorial activities (blog, newsletter, etc.) to accompanying events. If you want to outsource your press work and / or are looking for experts in crisis communication, contact PR agencies. A PR agency also makes sense for those who want additional support in sales, content marketing and media monitoring.

Content marketing agencies - content with added value

In addition to the classic disciplines of marketing, advertising and PR, content marketing has become increasingly established in recent years. Content marketing is about creating content that is not (only) promotional and offers the target group added value. In other words: It is about informative, advisory and entertaining content in various formats. For example in the form of blog posts, podcasts or videos. As an example: A manufacturer of garden tools produces tutorial videos for garden maintenance. Your own devices will be used in these. Accordingly, the consumer should be made aware of such content through the added value acquired, get a better picture of it and at the same time be informed about products. Many PR and advertising agencies now list content marketing in their portfolio. However, since content marketing can be very extensive, individual agencies also specialize in this area. This content marketing survey shows how important it is these days.

Content marketing agencies therefore produce high-quality content for the client's target groups in order to strengthen trust in them without explicit advertising. They use the produced content for example on websites, blogs and other channels. The services offered by a content marketing agency include:

  • the strategy development and conception of campaigns
  • the analysis and description of the buyer persona
  • the planning and implementation of content projects
  • the creation of the content
  • the optimization of the content
  • the search for authors for text projects and editorial support
  • if not in the portfolio yourself: the search and coordination with other service providers (video producers, designers, etc.)
  • the evaluation of the content measures

The content produced is not tied to online channels. “Classic” channels such as magazines or television programs are also used. For the evaluation of the content measures, the observation of the results is part of the agency's service. This includes, for example, the search engine ranking and the constant SEO adjustment of the content. Knowledge of SEO in particular has become indispensable for content marketing agencies. Potential new customers should ultimately find the content.

Content marketing agencies are therefore worthwhile for companies that want to tap into new target groups. This type of agency is also useful if existing customer relationships are to be intensified through additional services, for example an advisory blog.

Social media agencies - specialists for Facebook, Twitter & Co.

If you want more reach for your company, you can no longer ignore social media channels these days. Various providers in the agency environment have focused exclusively on this topic. Her expertise lies in everything to do with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social networks. Social media agencies develop and implement strategies with which their clients use their channels. Because really successful social media activities require resources and time that are often not available in many companies. The agency takes on the following tasks, among others, for the various channels:

  • Definition of goals and selection of suitable channels (Facebook, Twitter etc.)
  • Setting up and maintaining the accounts
  • Development of a content strategy
  • Preparation of editorial plans
  • Development of campaigns and posts
  • Control / creation of designs / videos / posts
  • Postings on the relevant channels
  • Evaluation of the activities through social media monitoring
  • Community management

Especially companies that are just starting out with social media like to get outside support. The agency type is also suitable for companies that want to increase their reach with social networks, but do not have the necessary resources. In particular, these agencies can bring in the expertise of which channels are suitable for which goals and how they can best be used. Would you like to find out more about the use of social media? Our article provides you with answers about all aspects of social media marketing.


PR, advertising, content marketing or social media: which agency type is suitable for a company as an external partner is ultimately decided by the client's goals. If you want to increase sales and have the budget to run ads, you should look around for an advertising agency. PR agencies are particularly suitable for clients who want to promote press work, crisis communication and editorial activities as well as event support. Since they also often have content marketing in their portfolio, companies can use synergy effects here. You then save yourself a separate content marketing agency. If the focus is on content marketing, an agency that is exclusively focused on this may make more sense. Social media agencies, on the other hand, are interesting for clients who want to include social networks in the marketing mix and who need external know-how and human resources. However, it can also be observed that more and more agencies are combining different disciplines. Also because these disciplines are moving closer and closer together. For example, an agency can create content and deliver social media activities from a single source. When searching for an agency, it is also important to get a precise overview.

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