Advertising, Marketing, Public Relations, Branding


Times Square


Advertising is a component of marketing that focuses on paid media. When a product or service is promoted through the internet, mobile devices, television, billboards, or in any other form for the purpose of gaining exposure, generating awareness, or selling, this is advertising. Some key roles in the advertising industry include: new business services, account services, account planning, creative, media, and production.

  • New Business Services: New business managers identify potential clients and craft pitches or strategies to win new clients.
  • Account Services: Account managers are the liaison between the client and the agency; they manage the development of ad campaigns and ensure campaigns are profitable for both client and agency.
  • Account Planning: The job of the account planner is to understand what the consumer wants. They share research and insights that guide the strategy of the campaign. 
  • Creative: The creative department brings an advertising idea to life. Copywriters create the text in print and social media 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. Digital advertising has created a demand for computer-based programmers and designers who can develop websites, online ads, games and apps.
  • 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 type of media to use. Media buyers track the space and time available for purchase and negotiate pricing, placement and scheduling to ensure ads appear as planned.
  • Production: The production department controls how print or media ads are produced.


According to the 2018 Vault Guide to Marketing Jobs, "the purpose of the marketing industry is to communicate companies' offerings to consumers, clients, and the general public." Marketers use research data or feedback to determine customer demand or identify potential markets for their products and services. Some key areas within the marketing industry include: product management, brand management, marketing analytics, digital marketing, and content marketing.

  • Product Managers 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. 
  • Brand Managers set and maintain a brand's identity and manage the brand's perception across all marketing channels.
  • Marketing Analysts use quantitative skills and research data to determine customer demand, potential markets, and pricing strategies to maximize profit for products and services.
  • Digital Marketers focus on online or mobile advertising: specialties include search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and Pay Per Click (PPC).
  • Content Marketers publish content through email, social media, podcast, videos, and blogs to stimulate consumer interest; they may also create live or in-person events.

Public Relations (PR)

Public Relations is a component of marketing that involves media that is free or "earned" through strategies such as cultivating relationships or providing pitches and press releases. PR is focused on the image and portrayal of an organization or individual. PR professionals create knowledge and understanding, coordinate a communication strategy, clarify misunderstandings, and promote the goals of their client.

  • 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.

  • Timelines vary greatly. While some Fortune 500 companies recruit through OCS Recruiting during the Fall, typically for marketing roles, other companies post opportunities, typically for advertising and PR roles, much later in Spring. Be proactive in researching deadlines for companies and roles that interest you.
  • 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. Conduct informational interviews with alumni or peers who work in marketing, as a way of learning more about the role and getting referrals to HR contacts. Meet professionals at career fairs or industry events and follow-up after you apply to reiterate your interest.

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.

  • 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, social media coordinator, and junior copywriter.
  • 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.)
  • If you are applying to creative roles it is essential to submit a portfolio or website with samples of your multimedia, written, or audio/visual work, in addition to your resume.

Graduate and Professional Programs

Education required for higher-level roles in advertising, marketing, and public relations largely depends on the employer. Organizations heavily weight candidates’ professional experiences when evaluating their qualifications. An advanced degree is a costly investment, especially when taking into consideration both tuition cost as well as lost income during graduate study. 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. A master’s degree in Digital Marketing or Marketing Analytics, for example, may not be required, but may still be helpful to develop the technical skills necessary to be a competitive applicant. Conduct informational interviews of people working in the position you hope to obtain to ensure you’re spending your time and tuition dollars wisely.