What is the Difference Between Marketing and PR?

Two women seated at desks working on their respective laptops
Two women seated at desks working on their respective laptops

The lines between public relations (PR) and marketing can oftentimes become easily blurred, even by professionals in the industry. While objectives, goals, and even some tactics may be closely related, there is a clear division between marketing and PR

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

Download our Ultimate Guide to PR 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.

Goals of PR and Marketing

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

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

  • Managing company messaging
  • Constructing 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

Metrics Measured

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 

Looking to measure your PR campaigns? In our blog on 14 proven PR KPIs that matter we outline what — and how — to track your results.

In another vein, a marketing professional gauges success based off of:

  • Did the product or service being marketed either meet or exceed sales goals?
  • Assessing the overall 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

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

  • The audience that Public Relations teams try to reach is virtually limitless. These teams may focus on personalized- or campaign-based outreach to consumers, stakeholders, the media, and even employees. Depending on the current needs of the company, a PR professional could be crafting individualized communications for investors at the same time they are crafting a press release blast. 
  • The audience that marketing teams try to reach is usually broader in the sense that this group is either addressing either customers or prospects — assuming that the PR team is handling all internal communications. However, the Marketing team may engage in activities like ABM, digital advertising, or email marketing that revolve around segmenting and targeting specific groups of either prospective customers or existing ones. 
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Overlap Between PR and Marketing

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

Let's look at an example of how the PR and marketing team's efforts have influence 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. 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 advertisements around that press. 

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

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