Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations, Branding

Photograph of Times Square


When a product or service is promoted heavily on television, billboards, the internet, or in any other form for the purpose of gaining exposure, generating awareness, or selling, this is advertising. The advertising field is divided into different sectors: account services, creative, media, traffic, and production.

  • Account Services: Account managers are the liaison between the client and the agency; they pitch the agency’s services and manage the development of ad campaigns. 
  • Creative: The creative department brings an advertising idea to life. Copywriters create the text in print ads, as well as the scripts of radio and television spots. Art directors develop the visual concepts and manage everything from photo sessions to print design to the filming of TV commercials.
  • Media: The media department places ads to reach their target audience for the least amount of money. Media planners evaluate readership and viewing habits as well as editorial content and programming to determine what media to use: newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, or the Internet. Media buyers track the space and time available for purchase and negotiate pricing, placement and scheduling to ensure ads appear as planned.
  • Traffic: The traffic department monitors development and submission deadlines.
  • Production: The production department controls how print or media ads are produced.


Marketers use research data or feedback to determine customer demand or identify potential markets for their products and services. The marketing team will work with advertising agencies to promote a product or service based on their marketing work.

  • Brand or product managers are the “intrapreneurs” of an organization. They monitor trends that indicate the need for new or updated products and services, oversee their development, and launch them into the marketplace. They partner with almost every facet of an organization, including accounting, finance, manufacturing, sales or distribution channels, and R&D. 
  • Marketers use quantitative skills and research data to determine customer demand, potential markets, and pricing strategies to maximize profit for products and services. Marketing may work with an advertising agency or in-house marketing communications department to promote the products and services.

Public Relations (PR)

PR professionals create knowledge and understanding around a product or service being promoted. They coordinate communication strategy, clarify misunderstandings, and promote usage. A product or organization’s reputation, profitability, and even its continued existence can depend on whether its targeted “public” supports its goals and policies.

  • Public relations specialists or PR agents advocate for businesses, nonprofits, universities, hospitals, and other organizations to build positive relationships with the public. They handle political campaigns, interest-group representation, conflict mediation, and employee / investor relations, as well as media, community, consumer, industry, and government relations. They do more than tell the organization’s story; they must understand the attitudes and concerns of a community, consumer, employee, or public interest group and establish and maintain cooperative relationships with representatives from print and broadcast journalism. PR agents may also coordinate events, meetings, educational programs, and speaking engagements.
  • Publicists generate and manage publicity for a public figure, celebrity, or business, as well as for creative products, such as books or films. 

Finding Internships

Landing an advertising, marketing, or public relations internship can be a competitive process. The more you know about the field, network with people in the industry, and follow up after applying, the better your chances will be.

  • Most applicants start with entry-level positions to gain experience, then work their way up. Common entry-level titles include account coordinator, assistant account executive, media assistant, and junior copywriter.
  • This is a social industry. Though you may submit a formal application online, knowing someone on the inside will generally get you in the door faster. Meet professionals at career fairs or industry events.
  • After you have applied to an organization that interests you, follow up with an email or phone call to reiterate your interest in the position.

Finding Jobs

Like finding an internship, landing an advertising, marketing, or public relations job can be a competitive process. Before you begin your search, research the field. Keep in mind that some applicants will intern or network their way into a position, and while many educational backgrounds are suitable for the industry, employers often prefer candidates with experience and a broad liberal arts education. Gain experience through internships or extra-curricular activities. The ability to communicate persuasively and work effectively in a team is vital. The advent of new media, which refers to any form of electronic communication, makes it imperative for anyone interested in this industry to have a strong grasp of multimedia technology (streaming videos, email, websites, HTML, etc.). For some positions, both quantitative and qualitative backgrounds provide a solid foundation. Students who enter advertising, marketing, or public relations also tend to be personable, creative, highly motivated, resistant to stress, flexible, and decisive.

  • Connect with employers through events hosted by student organizations, OCS, or other Harvard institutes. 
  • Job openings are driven by the needs of the organization; there isn’t a timeline or a specific cycle, though larger firms may hire in May or June. 
  • If you don't see any opportunities, a proactive inquiry is encouraged. (Representatives participating in OCS events often leave their contact information in Crimson Careers; this is a good place to start.)
  • Think about putting together a portfolio of your work online. Your resume is essential, but having samples of your multimedia, written, or audio/visual work will go a long way.

Graduate and Professional Programs

Considering an advanced degree is an expensive proposition, especially when taking into consideration both tuition cost as well as lost income during the two years you are in school full time. If for no other reason, this is an investment you will want to research thoroughly to better understand what you can expect to get out of your degree both academically and professionally. In many cases, an MBA is required for brand management tracks and is considered a pre-requisite for management positions in many industries. Conduct informational interviews of people working in the position you hope to obtain to ensure you’re spending your time and tuition dollars wisely.