Although there are several differences between marketing and public relations (PR), many people perceive them to be the same. However, putting an equals sign between them is a mistake.

Are you just at the beginning of your marketing journey? It’s worthwhile to understand the fundamental differences between the two.

PR and marketing are not the same thing. However, both are needed for a business to succeed.

So let’s clarify once and for all any doubts on this topic.

The definitions: PR vs marketing

It’s easy to get confused about the differences between PR and marketing.  No wonder, as both of them aim to improve company performance, but they take different paths to get there.

The first step toward understanding the gap between PR and marketing communication is learning their definitions. So let’s take a closer look at them.

Public relations

Public relations, known as PR, is a long-term process of building and maintaining positive relations between the company and its closest environments, i.e., customers, employees, investors, media.

PR is focused on image-oriented, strategic activities that are planned for the long term. It’s extremely important to keep these activities aligned with the company’s goals, so they need to be reconsidered and reworked constantly.

The biggest challenge with PR is in its unpredictability – solving the current company’s problems. Which ones? False accusations, product failures, and a host of other unexpected fires must be put out before they do any damage.

source: undraw.co

Marketing

Marketing is a much broader concept than public relations. It focuses directly on the market, demand, and product. Its main goal is to promote the company, and as a result, increase sales.

Marketing refers to the set of actions targeted at potential and existing customers for a specific purpose, usually actions that lead to a purchase.

Marketing comprises four core pillars, the so-called “4p”, which stands for product, price, place, and promotion. Essentially, it is a set of strategies that marketers use, optimize, and adapt to influence the market.

The key to successful PR and marketing in a company is: first, the ability to distinguish between the objectives of these two areas, and second, cooperating between them as much as possible.

The similarities and differences

Once you know the theory, it’s time to get to know about the similarities and differences. Are there any touchpoints that make the terms similar?

PR and marketing have much in common. They both:

  • must be consistent with the overall brand strategy,
  • want to deliver a positive and effective brand message to buyers,
  • often have a common approach and are heading in the same direction,
  • provide content marketing, such as testimonials, blogs, videos, podcasts, but covering other topics.

Nevertheless, there is more division than unity between PR and marketing. Although they are not the same, they influence each other strongly. *

In what ways are PR & marketing different?

#1 Target audience

PR and marketing strategies tend to target different audiences. A marketer’s primary focus is the customer, most often the person who will make the purchasing decision. Establishing the right target group (those most likely to become interested in the product) is vital to achieving the company’s economic goals.

PR focuses on a broader audience – customers, the media, influencers, and all other potential stakeholders. It depends on the company’s current needs, but sometimes marketing and PR strategies (in a matter of target audience) overlap. 

Creating personas – fictional characters that represent different client types – is usually very useful in both cases.

source: undraw.co

The target group must be thoroughly analyzed by understanding their problems, how they behave, where and how they seek information, and what their decision-making process is. This is helpful to more accurately target communications and personalize them, which can lead to better results.

#2 Areas of operation

Generally, marketing is most involved in going around the market and its requirements. This includes planning, budgeting, and lead management, as well as constant market research. Marketers use data to make decisions, and through this, they take actions involving areas such as advertising and promotion, which leads to direct sales.

PR refers to all activities a company conducts towards its environment, both outside and within the organization. A company’s PR activities are crucial for aligning company activities with stakeholder expectations.

No marketing activity would be complete without public relations. Someone who cares about a carefully designed strategy that will be received positively must first take care of the brand image.

#3 Goals

Marketers strive to satisfy the needs of their customers. By creating a need within a potential customer, marketers can encourage them to purchase the product. The main goal of a marketing campaign is to generate sales, increase revenue and profits (as soon as possible).

source: undraw.co

PR is not intended to create needs but serves primarily to build a positive image and shape a positive perception of the organization’s activities. It does not always directly impact sales. You shouldn’t expect immediate results. They won’t come right away; it takes time.

#4 Metrics

In both PR and marketing, success is measured. And in digital marketing, you can measure almost anything. Of course, there is a difference between the metrics measured in PR and those measured in marketing, but many of them are used in both.

So what KPIs and metrics should you set if you want to measure PR campaign performance? 

First, brand mentions – It often happens that someone mentions your brand without linking to your website. These mentions can help spread awareness of your brand, but they are hard to detect manually. Fortunately, there are tools such as Mediatoolkit that will streamline your work in this area. Additionally, you can use this tool to see sentiment analysis of particular mentions automatically.

Other metrics that are commonly used in PR are:

  • Brand impact
  • Media coverage
  • Share of Voice (SOV)
  • Sales department response time, 
  • Social media reach and user engagement.
source: undraw.co

Actually, PR metrics are just a drop in the ocean of indicators that can be used for analysis in marketing. Thorough marketing analysis should cover the metrics listed above and additionally:

  • Website metrics, 
  • Digital marketing KPIs (such as CTR, CPA, etc.), 
  • Social media metrics,
  • Content marketing and SEO metrics,
  • Sales and revenue metrics,
  • Email marketing metrics.

For sure, marketing metrics are much more expansive, and marketers need to analyze a lot more than PR managers. Compared to public relations, marketing focuses more on quantitative data than on qualitative data.

#5 Time frame

In marketing, your focus is on the here and now. You want to improve your performance and attain your goals quickly. That is why marketing goals tend to be short-term, and marketers don’t look too far ahead. Once, having taken into account the current outcomes, they can decide what to do.

In contrast, PR requires patience. Unlike marketing, which aims at immediate sales, PR can be treated as a long-term investment, which pays off after some time.

Comparison table: PR vs Marketing

Public RelationsMarketing
Target audienceStakeholders, media, and the overall publicCurrent and potential customers
Areas of operationManaging the brand environment both internally and externally; maintaining the brand’s positionMarket research, planning, budgeting, campaign development, and lead management
GoalsBuilding and maintaining a positive brand imageSatisfying customers’ needs and driving revenue
MetricsAcquiring positive media coverage and influencing a change in brand perceptionIncreasing revenue and achieving short-term results
Time frameLong-term goalsShort-term goals

Practical uses

And what does it look like in practice? How does a digital marketer’s job differ from a PR specialist’s?

A PR specialist is focused on communication strategy and crisis management. It’s a hard, unpredictable job, so even a minor slip can cause a lot of damage. If a PR manager is not busy saving the whole company, their daily responsibilities include dealing with media contacts, creating events, and composing press releases.

On the other hand, a digital marketer is responsible for a large portion of the business’s online presence. Whether they are focused on social media or website development, is up to the company. Digital marketers conduct market research, create and manage advertising campaigns, and manage social media profiles. In most cases, they coordinate their activities with the sales team.

What does your company need?

How do you know if your company needs a PR manager or a marketer? Many companies don’t have a separate person responsible for their PR. Very often, these responsibilities lie on the marketing team side. Is this good?

It’s not for us to judge, but marketers usually have so much work that PR activities are often put on the back burner. If your budget allows it, it’s definitely worth hiring someone who will take care of the positive image of your brand. It will pay off in the long run.

source: http://undraw.co

Suppose your problem is a lack of communication with the media, poor recognition in the industry, or any other problem related to brand image. In that case, you should look for a PR manager. But if you want to increase sales, do market research or promote your new product, you need a digital marketer.

The range of tasks in this space is so wide that many businesses (usually the bigger ones) ​​find it helpful to have specialists in each of these areas separately. And that’s how we find PR managers, social media ninjas, content designers, analysts, and Google Ads specialists in one team. Effective cooperation of all these people can have a massive impact on a brand’s success.

Summing up on PR vs Marketing

People are emotional beings, and to achieve the best results possible, you have to combine PR and marketing efforts effectively. 

As long as you can build a bond between the customer and the brand (through PR), there is a good chance that the clients will actively participate in your marketing activities.

As a result, you will achieve desired results; increasing the brand reputation, and creating a more positive brand image.


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