Back to Blog Is it PR or Marketing?

Lynda Starr

When there are overlaps in corporate functions, it is easy to confuse them such as accounting and finance.  The same is true for Public Relations and Marketing.  It is important to understand the differences between the two functions to understand how they can complement one another.

Let’s begin with the “official” definitions as set out by the trade associations representing each area.  According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), “Public Relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”  The American Marketing Association defines Marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

The difference between the definitions is the first focuses on Public Relations as a relationship in process while Marketing is more about sales and direct presentation of a company’s products and services. PR’s goal is to build goodwill resulting in positive coverage that contribute to the sales process. Marketing’s goal is to bring a product to market, show its value to potential customers to elicit a purchase based on elements of the product, needs met, pricing and promotion.  On the organizational chart, Marketing is a line function while Public Relations is a staff or supporting function.

“While there can be an adversarial relationship between Marketing and Public Relations, the two functions are siblings and need to work together…”

More specifically, let’s examine the meaning of “organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” These publics—are in the high-tech PR done by Vantage—more influencers than end users.  Influencers include editors, industry analysts, employees, bloggers, and social media contributors, all of whom can shape the opinions of and have an impact on potential customers. Public Relations is about relationship building and learning what analysts cover, how editors like to be approached, and which people can be called as a reference. It’s also about how to position clients to meet the needs of influencers whether by providing  a quote, statistics or graphics.

Another differentiator between Public Relations and Marketing is the approach taken to media coverage.  Marketing uses paid media, also known as advertising, promotion or advertorials.  With advertising, the purchaser has full control over the content, schedules the ad whether in print, broadcast or web-based.  Public Relations uses earned media and does not pay for placement within any medium.  Content can include press releases, mentions in news or feature articles, case studies, videos, or contributed articles.  PR professionals cannot control how or if the author will include the client in a news or feature.  This is where the relationships come in—if an editor knows the PR person and client can be trusted to offer valuable content, then the company is more likely to receive positive coverage.  If an editor says something positive, the article, blog or interview acts as a neutral, third-party endorsement, whereas with an ad the reader knows the company is controlling the message.

While there can be an adversarial relationship between Marketing and Public Relations, the two functions are siblings (and which siblings never fight?) and need to work together to generate positive materials and relationships that build brand recognition with communities of interest, leading to increased sales.

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