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What is the Difference Between Marketing and PR?


Nov 2, 2023

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The lines between public relations (PR) and marketing can become easily blurred, even by professionals in the industry. In today's world the objectives, goals, and even some tactics used by both PR and marketing teams may be closely related. 

To keep it simple, marketing is focused on driving sales and doing so by promoting products, services, or ideas on channels like social media. Public relations (PR) is more focused on the maintenance of a positive reputation of a company, brand, or person through the media. 

Download our Ultimate Guide to PR and read our blog about The Basics of Public Relations to discover how PR can act as a champion for the overall marketing strategy and why it is an important part of the communication process to drive business results.

Table of Contents

What Is PR in Marketing?

PR, or Public Relations, is a strategic communication and marketing discipline that focuses on managing and shaping an organization's image and reputation in the eyes of the public, including customers, stakeholders, and the general public. PR is not advertising, but rather it involves creating and maintaining a positive public perception of a company, brand, or individual through various means, such as media coverage, community engagement, and other forms of communication.

What are key aspects of PR in marketing?

  1. Media Relations: Building relationships with journalists, bloggers, and other media professionals to secure media coverage that promotes the company or its products and services.
  2. Crisis Management: Addressing and mitigating potential PR crises that could damage an organization's reputation, and managing the communication during such situations.
  3. Content Creation: Developing and distributing press releases, articles, blog posts, and other content that showcases the company's expertise, achievements, and contributions.
  4. Event Management: Organizing and promoting events, such as product launches, trade shows, and charity functions, to generate positive publicity and engage with key stakeholders.
  5. Social Media Engagement: Leveraging social media platforms to interact with the audience, respond to inquiries, and share company news and updates.
  6. Employee and Community Engagement: Engaging employees and the local community to foster a positive image and build strong relationships.
  7. Influencer Marketing & Relations: Collaborating with influencers and thought leaders to promote products or services to their followers.
  8. Publicity and Awards: Seeking industry recognition and awards to enhance the company's credibility with proper reputation management.

PR is an essential component of marketing because it can help build trust, credibility, and a positive image for a brand, ultimately influencing consumer perceptions and purchase decisions. Effective PR strategies can complement other marketing efforts, such as advertising and content marketing, to create a more comprehensive and favorable image for a company or product.

Is PR Part of Marketing?

Yes, public relations (PR) is a distinct but integral part of marketing. While PR and marketing are separate disciplines, they often overlap and complement each other in the broader context of promoting a brand, product, or service. PR fits into the marketing mix.

In essence, PR and marketing work in tandem to achieve an organization's marketing goals and objectives. They share the common aim of promoting the brand and its offerings, albeit through different strategies and tactics. When integrated effectively, PR and marketing create a comprehensive and cohesive approach to building and promoting a brand.

What Are the Goals of PR and Marketing?

Each of these important areas serves wider business goals in distinct ways. While they can often be conflated, and it's true that PR and marketing are working more closely than ever as non-traditional media forms blur the lines — there are still some key differentiating factors.

How do the goals of PR and marketing differ?

While PR is focused heavily on reputation management and maximizing the reach for news stories, interviews, and announcements, marketing teams focus on attracting new buyers, retaining current customers, and storytelling.

Both are deeply engrained in the process of building brand equity, customer loyalty, and positive perception for the brand.

The goals for a public relations team revolve around:

  • Selling a product, brand, or person by managing a positive reputation through various communication channels with stakeholders and the general public.

The goals for a marketing team center on:

  • Reaching consumers and having them do carryout sort of a sales-focused action. 
  • Revenue is increasingly becoming a key metric that marketing teams are evaluated against
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Day-to-day Tactics in Public Relations and Marketing

How each team approaches achieving their goals also differs.

On a daily basis, you may find that a public relations professional is focused on the following tasks:

  • Managing company messaging
  • Constructing and pitching press releases
  • Securing public speaking opportunities
  • Building the company, brand, or individual’s reputation in media 
  • Managing media relations on behalf of their client

A PR agency may also help clients put together a communication strategy or crisis management plan.

On the other hand, a marketing professional is focused on:

  • Creating and managing advertising campaigns
  • Securing traditional and digital advertising placements
  • Conducting industry research to help drive the overall direction of marketing campaigns 
  • Developing collateral for websites and digital marketing efforts, sales pitches, and launches, brochures, PDFs, etc. 
  • Managing the company or brand's social media profiles

Tip: Learn how to hire a PR agency and how to hire a marketing firm.

Metrics Measured in PR and Marketing

Measuring success using KPIs and key metrics is the best way to prove ROI and plan for future campaigns and investments. Both PR and marketing teams need to report on these metrics regularly to spot trends and insights, but they often look at data in distinct ways.

When a PR professional is looking to measure the impact of their efforts, they assess:

  • The amount of positive press generated online, in trade publications, broadcasts and other media outlets
  • Awards that have  been won at industry events
  • The “buzz” generated from social media profiles, influencers, bloggers, and the public as a whole. 
  • The sentiment of the coverage received 

See the 14 proven PR KPIs that matter most.

In another vein, a marketing professional gauges success based on:

  • Did the product or service being marketed either meet or exceed sales goals?
  • Assessing the overall marketing ROI of various marketing and advertising strategies and campaigns. 
  • Did buzz, or general traffic online increase for a product or service? Did a social media following grow after promoting content on different platforms? 

Target Audiences of PR and Marketing

Generally speaking, there is a difference between the audiences that PR and marketing teams develop communications around:

  • The audiences that public relations teams may try to reach is very broad, and depends largely on the goal of a specific campaign. For example, an earnings report will be largely intended for investors' eyes, while a press release around a new hire or a DE&I initiative may be geared toward employees and/or journalists.
  • The audience that marketing teams try to reach is usually based more heavily on consumer insight research — allowing their messaging to reflect the people who actually purchase your product — assuming that the PR team is handling all internal communications. The marketing team may engage in activities like ABM, digital advertising, or email marketing as well, that revolve around segmenting and targeting specific groups of either prospective customers or existing ones. 
A group of people sitting on a bench each looking at either a tablet, phone or laptop

Overlap Between PR and Marketing

Despite some very clear differences, public relations and marketing cannot operate in silos. To be successful in today’s world, the two departments must collaborate with one another.

If the product or service you are advertising has limited brand awareness, then you will have a more challenging time building a successful brand reputation, or relationship, with consumers. This will most likely result in a decline in sales. 

In this instance, both the PR and marketing departments could work together to increase brand awareness by securing press for the product or service and then creating social media ads and posts around to promote that press. 

Social media marketing and influencer marketing are two activities that are increasingly being managed by both PR and marketing departments. Social media and influencers can be used to convey brand-building messaging as well as help carry out targeted advertising campaigns.

Although this requires greater collaboration between the two departments, there are several advantages to aligning PR strategies and marketing strategies, including the ability for greater content amplification across channels, additional optimization opportunities, maintaining and promoting brand messaging consistency, and much more.

Looking for ways Meltwater can help you hone your marketing and PR strategy? Fill out the form below to request a demo.