The difference between marketing and PR can be a little confusing to some. It gets even more confusing because PR often resides within the marketing department of bigger organizations. But what’s the actual difference between them and the ideal working relationship?
At the most basic level, the main difference is this:
- PR is responsible for maintaining an overall public image for the organization as a whole.
- Marketing is focused on promoting a specific set of products and services.
From a functional, day-to-day standpoint, marketing teams tend to create content, run overall campaigns, and define the value of what the company offers (whether that’s a product or service). They often work in concert with sales teams. Marketing activities tend to be “top of funnel” in sales parlance, meaning content, emails, or brochures that get the attention of a prospective customer. As the customer engages more with the brand, they move over to the sales side for “bottom of funnel,” where the idea is to get them to pay for whatever the end product/service is.
PR functional activities usually involve calling or contacting a network of contacts for press coverage in traditional and digital media. While it may seem outdated now, an example of a big PR win would be getting a company covered in USA Today — because of the circulation and reach. While a marketing team would probably celebrate such an accomplishment, it wouldn’t necessarily be seen as a “big win” on their side. An email campaign that drove $12,000 of purchases would, however — and a PR team probably wouldn’t celebrate that as strongly.
Some of this comes down to “outbound” vs. “inbound” methodologies of reaching out to people. Outbound, which is a more legacy approach to sales/marketing, means you push out your message and brand to others. In that type of setup, PR is very important — because you want to get on the biggest channels with the biggest reach. We’d all love our product launch to be on A1 of The New York Times, for example. That would be a PR move.
“Inbound” methodology means you create content that draws prospective customers into you — if they Google around a pain point, for example. Consider a Google search for “How do I install my own marble counter tops?” If you sell marble counter tops or have a service where you install them, maybe you wrote a blog post on that. It rises up in Google, people find it, and while on that page, they buy something from you. That’s a marketing activity. More companies switching to “inbound” methodology means day-to-day marketing activities involve creating assets to generate leads (new customers) as opposed to pushing out content, which is more of a PR activity.
So what’s the ideal working relationship?
As noted above, usually PR teams reside within marketing departments. That is fine (even preferable), and PR should be a part of marketing strategy. How can the company get the most reach on anything new it does? Marketing — generating content, etc. — plays into that, as does PR — looking for opportunities to be discussed. When PR and marketing reside in different shops — for example PR reporting to the Communications department — oftentimes wires get crossed on messaging. The marketing team may approach a new product with one set of language and images, and the PR team may approach it totally different. That can create confusion at the customer level and hurt sales.
In short, PR and marketing should be aligned in some way. PR should be an aspect of an overall marketing strategy, and messaging should be consistent regardless of the type of promotion you’re doing.
A version of this article was originally published as What is the Difference Between Public Relations and Marketing? by Ted Bauer on April 28th, 2017.
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