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What’s the difference between PR and marketing?

I’m often asked what’s the difference between marketing and public relations. Frequently, people consider public relations and marketing as falling under the same umbrella.  However, each requires a vastly different set of skills and expertise, but both are vital to the success of brands.

6 Ways PR differs from marketing:

  1. Area of focus: The major goal of marketing is to increase sales for products or services while the major goal of public relations is to build relationships and trust with stakeholders and customers. While, the goals of marketing and public relations are different these professionals need to work together. Their strategies should be complementary and in keeping with the overall feel of a brand.
  1. Unpaid coverage and validity:  Public relations messages are often considered more legitimate than marketing slogans as they take the form of articles, reputable public figures or word of mouth, whilst marketing and advertising are often recognised by the public as tools to drive an organisation’s sales. Editorial coverage generated by public relations can’t be ‘bought’.  Consumers often see editorial coverage as more credible than paid advertising and therefore effective public relations is paramount to any integrated communication strategy.  
  1. Indirect style: In some cases, public relations can be indirect compared to marketing. An example of this is event sponsorship.  By sponsoring large or even small local events positive brand awareness and increased publicity can be built up. While marketing usually directly refers to products and services brands offer, public relations indirectly creates publicity.  A greater public profile may lead to new consumers not targeted through marketing campaigns.
  1. Broader target audience: While marketing focuses on creating target markets and a loyal customer base, public relations aims to build relationships with anyone exposed to the brand. This broader audience includes employees, shareholders, the general public and media. Public relations focuses on how a brand and its reputation appears to not only current but future stakeholders. Building and maintaining relationships across a variety of different areas is the key to effective public relations.  
  1. Multiple benefits: Effective public relations potentially benefits brands in many ways. Public relations works to build ties with the community, stakeholders and government. Creating a favourable and positive image across these areas can have a positive influence on a brand’s bottom line. This crossover effect is unique to public relations and does not occur through other marketing activities.  Another benefit of public relations is its ability to manage crisis situations and resolve complex issues. Any negative news about a brand may hamper its image. Public relations consultants, who often also have experience and qualifications in journalism, are trained to handle issues, negative publicity and damage to a brand’s reputation.
  1. Duration: Marketing campaigns tend to focus more on the short-term; they have an end site in mind by which they aim to have reached tangible success, whereas Public Relations is ongoing. A good public relations program should be viewed as an investment that the company will continually reap rewards from in the future.

It is crucial to understand the functions of both marketing and public relations, as they are incredibly important tools in creating a positive brand image. Marketing and public relations strategies should be complementary with professionals in each field working together for the overall success of a brand.


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