The Difference Between Marketing and PR

The distinction between marketing and public relations can be frustrating when you’re starting out in the communications field. When I was declaring my major at the end of freshman year, I realized I was confused about the difference between the two. I shyly asked my professors and peers, but none seemed confident in their explanation.

Well, thank God—err, Al Gore?—for the Internet. It was around this time that Google became my favorite teacher and most trusted source of information.

And I knew others shared my need for distinction, too, when I saw the magnitude of findings on the search engine results page (about 14 million today). Luckily, it only took a few high-quality articles and blog posts to gain a sufficient understanding. Here is a summary of my findings:

  • Marketing focuses on products and services. Public relations focuses on relationships.
  • Marketing is a line function. PR is a staff function.
  • Marketing is paid media. Public relations is earned media. (Owned media can be either function.)
  • Marketing is telling people how great you are. PR is when others do the telling for you.
  • Public relations requires persuasion. Marketing requires $$.
  • Marketing is trading and sales oriented. PR is public oriented.
  • Marketing is about the 4 P’s: product, price, place and promotion. Public relations is about enhancing a company’s reputation.
  • PR creates the population around the product. Marketing sells the product.
  • Marketing you pay for, public relations you pray for.
  • An analogy: Marketing is the ingredients, PR is the cake displayed in the window.

marketing ingredientsCake Public Relations

But recently, the lines between marketing and PR are blurring more than ever. What’s the cause? The move to digital media brought by the Internet! Notice the irony here?

In the latest edition of his book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott explains, “Prior to the web, organizations had only two choices: to get advertising or get third-party ink from the media.”

However, in a digital world, there is so much more: blogs, e-books, video, e-news releases, and other forms of online content that let companies communicate directly with audiences. Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow people all over the world to share content and information and connect with people and companies they do business with, or would like to.

It’s hard to tell anymore which department is creating and managing all that content, but I think it varies from company to company. Both are certainly capable. Marketers and public relations pros have both adapted to the changing technology. Marketing brought the traditional billboard ad to Facebook, and PR brought the media pitch to bloggers.

The convergence of marketing and PR online has to do with content. Technological advancements in how we receive our news updates, and how that content is delivered, and even the content itself, blur the lines between marketing and public relations. A simple tweet or Facebook post can introduce a new product (marketing) or explain a company’s take on an issue (PR). Similarly, a company blog can focus on what the company has to offer (marketing) or on building a company’s image (public relations). It’s all about the tools used.

Related articles:

marking pr advertising branding

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