In the “old” days, before the digital revolution brought most commerce online, marketing and public relations (PR) were two distinct disciplines divided into their own departments and agencies. Marketers identified prospects’ needs and disseminated messages that guided audiences toward a purchase. On the other hand, public relations professionals managed an organization or public figure’s public image by increasing positive press and maintaining their brand reputation. There was little crossover between these two fields.
But since the rise of the digital sphere, content marketing, and social media, the lines have blurred.
Today, many marketers have taken on PR duties, and public relations pros have become more integrated into marketing teams. It’s not unusual to see people straddle both roles simultaneously — especially within small organizations.
And yet, marketing and PR are still different practices with their own objectives, strategies, tactics, and methods for measuring performance.
If you’re still not entirely sure how PR and marketing differ, you’re not alone. Today, we’ll illuminate those differences to help you understand.
To start, marketing and public relations have different definitions.
Definition: the process of igniting demand for goods and services by identifying and targeting one or more key audiences.
Goal: to drive prospective customers to engage with the brand, make a purchase, and, ultimately, continue coming back for more.
Definition: the process of managing an entity’s image through press, partnerships, and strategic communications.
Goal: to ensure the public has a favorable impression of the company or person they represent.
Both act as a middleman between the audience and the business. Today, they leverage many of the same channels and platforms to achieve their goals, which is why the two disciplines are often conflated.
Even though marketing and PR have become more integrated in recent years, they’re still performed for different purposes and measured in unique ways.
Here are three things that separate marketing and PR:
Marketing: the ultimate goal of marketing is to sell a product or service. Typically, this means identifying the target market(s), understanding buyers’ pain points and challenges, mapping the buyer’s journey, and finding ways to reach people and guide them along that journey. Successful marketing teams work closely with sales teams and ensure sales pros always have a healthy pipeline of qualified leads.
PR: the ultimate goal of a PR team is to ensure a brand maintains a positive reputation. In most cases, this means identifying the best communication channels to reach the general public, crafting messages to spread through those channels, and working closely with the media to amplify those messages further.
Marketing: marketers spend their time crafting and launching campaigns via owned, earned, and paid channels to attract prospective buyers and guide them toward a purchase. This often includes efforts like writing content for emails and search engine optimized blog posts; composing copy and creating graphics for traditional and digital ads or website assets; crafting and publishing content for social media; and producing videos and live events — just to name a few.
PR: PR professionals’ days are consumed with crafting brand messaging for social media and other channels; writing press releases; securing interviews and public speaking opportunities; building relationships with media personnel and influencers; and defining and managing a brand’s image.
Marketing: marketing teams typically measure their success by the number of leads they were able to generate for the sales team, the number of sales they were able to influence, and the ROI of their campaigns. On a more granular level, they might track metrics like blog post traffic, social media engagement, or web page bounce rates.
PR: PR teams measure success through the amount of positive press they can generate, the size of media coverage, and the brand’s public reputation. They also often monitor social media shares or mentions, a brand’s net promoter score (NPS), and website traffic or audience reach.
Despite the different strategies and tactics they use to achieve their goals, marketing and PR teams share one unified mission: creating success for the company they serve.
Here are three ways these two disciplines may overlap:
In the past, marketers relied on print ads, direct mail, broadcast ads, and billboards, and PR pros leveraged print media, radio shows, and TV programs. Today, both marketers and PR teams use many of the same digital channels:
For example, a brand’s Instagram account may be used for both marketing and PR purposes.
Both marketers and PR pros strive to form genuine, meaningful connections with prospective and existing customers. And both teams perform plenty of audience research to help tailor their messaging and ensure they’re deploying the right strategies in the right place at the right time.
To be successful in marketing or PR, you must be highly skilled in communicating and understanding consumers’ motives.
Despite the growing collaboration and shared mission, marketing and PR aren’t interchangeable. In other words, one cannot replace the other. While PR may positively impact your brand’s public image and marketing efforts may help increase sales, you still need both to holistically maximize your organization’s success.
By investing in both and aligning these teams, you can achieve a positive reputation, consistent messaging, and a better chance of growing your market share.