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What is the Difference Between PR and Marketing?


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What is the Difference Between PR and...

When it comes to running a business, you’ve probably heard about the importance of public relations and marketing. You’ve probably also heard how both are vital in order for a communications strategy to succeed. But what is the difference between the two? Can you use one and not the other?

The short answer is yes. You may focus on  one strategy, but both function better together to drive sales and make a company’s brand better known and more respected. While marketing and public relations serve different functions, the two are so intertwined that it’s often hard to differentiate which is which, especially in today’s technology driven world. 

Here is a breakdown of the differences between PR and marketing and why it is important to integrate both in your brand’s communication strategy.

What is PR and what is marketing?

The dictionary definition of public relations is that it’s the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization. 

Day-to-day activities in PR may consist of:

  • Writing a press release
  • Securing speaking opportunities at industry events
  • Building relationships with the media or other key players in the industry to drive positive coverage in news outlets
  • Crisis management 

Marketing is the action of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising. 

Some day-to-day activities in marketing may include:

  • Identifying potential customers
  • Conducting industry and client research
  • Creating marketing campaigns
  • Buying advertising slots

Key differences between PR and marketing 

In addition to day-to-day activities, there are a few key components that differentiate public relations from marketing. 

While marketing activities promote products directly, public relations activities promote products indirectly. How is this done? Marketing seeks to drive sales while PR typically seeks to boost the reputation of the brand. Marketing specifically focuses on products and increasing revenue. PR focuses on building a positive image to make the brand look amazing, which creates traffic, demand and, ultimately, revenue.

Another critical difference between public relations and marketing is the different types of media that the two adopt. PR primarily manages earned media. Earned media is any kind of media that is voluntarily given through a third party, namely a news media outlet. 

Marketing, on the other hand, primarily manages owned media and paid media. Owned media would be anything that your company owns and controls. A good example of owned media would be a company blog or a Facebook page. Paid media, as its name suggests, is media that is paid for. Examples of paid media could be a billboard, an ad on Instagram or a pay-per-click advertisement on Google.

The target audience is different for both as well. In marketing, the target is current and potential customers. Who can we get to buy this product and how do we get people who are already buying to buy more? Marketing uses an overall communication strategy with customers to achieve a financial objective. 

Public relations, on the other hand, targets customers as well as employees, investors, the media, and special interest groups. The goal is to maintain positive relationships with anyone and everyone who is interested in the brand. PR uses an overall communication strategy to achieve an organizational objective. 

The third difference is longevity. Because marketing is generally hyper focused on increasing sales, marketing activities are often short lived. A campaign can be very successful but will not live on forever. New ideas and promotional strategies are constantly being generated because they are made to obtain new sales and reflect various promotions. Once a campaign has reached all the customers it can to achieve maximum sales, it is time to create a new one. 

A PR strategy often has more long-lasting effects. It does not focus on sales for a given product that year or quarter, unless of course it is announcing a new product line or recent geographic expansion. PR focuses on the longer-term goal of shaping customer opinion about the company and its products in hopes of generating greater interest in the brand and its offerings.. PR also focuses on creating a positive perception of the brand by highlighting activities that maintain and grow positive awareness. 

How they work together

PR and marketing go hand in hand. In fact, it’s difficult for one to succeed without support from the other. If the product is not appealing, people will not connect to the brand. If people do not connect to the brand, they will not buy the product. 

Think of marketing and PR like throwing a party. You clean the house, you have delicious food catered, you hire entertainment, and you invite all the right people. This is marketing. You have a great product– your party will be awesome! 

However, unless you have credibility, people may not believe your party will be awesome. You cannot throw a party and then hide in your room while everyone wanders around the house. You must socialize, build relationships, make long lasting impressions, crack hilarious jokes. This is public relations — creating positive impressions of your brand so that people become passionate, loyal repeat customers. 

Having both components work together under an overall communications strategy is the most positive and influential way for a business to succeed. Like the old saying goes, two is stronger than one. 

About Savannah Burns: Savannah is a marketing and communications intern for Swyft, which has been listed as one of the best PR firms in Austin and a top digital marketing agency in Denver since its founding in 2011. Swyft has satellite offices where it offers PR in San Francisco and Houston.

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