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 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 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

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 social media, and other 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 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 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 father 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 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 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.

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.