As surprising as it might sound, some business leaders still struggle to realise the difference between PR and marketing. You might be more familiar with this when working as a communications professional, although the lines can still blur sometimes. That's why this article aims to inform about the difference between public relations and marketing, point out the similarities between PR and marketing, and look at some popular measuring criteria to use when evaluating PR and marketing campaigns.
Public relations is defined as the practice of techniques and strategies that relate to reputation management and image creation, also referring to the process of building mutual understanding and trust between a company, brand or person and their publics. This is what marks the distinct difference between publicity and marketing.
Marketing is defined as the practice of increasing awareness, stimulating purchase/repurchase intent and creating product/service preference through consumer-driven benefits, advertising, strategic placements, pricing and promotions.
To briefly explain the difference between public relations and marketing, marketing focuses on creating revenue generating opportunities by promoting and selling specific products or services. PR is different from this as it is concerned with creating and maintaining a holistic, positive reputation for a company, brand or person.
As communication processes become more integrated (IMC), it's easy to get confused between the different purposes of different communication methods. Within the holistic spectrum of marketing communications, we have PR as a supporting tool of the overall goals.
A key point to remember is that PR focuses on editorial content for promotional activities. In public relations, we also make use of third-party endorsements and earned media to create publicity. This is different from marketing activities in the sense that marketing uses paid-for advertising to create awareness.
Additionally, PR aims to share value adding and trustworthy information, as opposed to "convincing a crowd to purchase products". For example, advertising activities will share product specific content, such as sustainable features and capabilities, and PR will enhance these efforts by sharing thought leadership stories about the creators behind the product and their vision.
Marketing is focused on promoting a specific product, service or idea, with the goal of increasing sales. As part of the overall marketing activities, the process includes conducting market research and formulating advertising campaigns.
Since marketing has a strong focus on generating sales and making profits, promotional messages are formulated with the intention of stimulating market demand that results in purchases. As a result of digital marketing, most consumers receive subliminal marketing messages via online platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok.
The tasks that the PR and marketing team is responsible for differ on a daily basis, this includes the functions of each department, the target audience and the metrics used to measure the effectiveness of PR and/or marketing efforts.
The general day-to-day work of a PR manager and a marketing manager can share some overlap, however, their main priorities are distinct from each other.
Typically, you would find the PR manager writing a press release about their client’s latest activities, drafting media pitches, working on relationship building with media agents or influencers, dealing with crisis communications or dealing with internal PR events.
On the same day, the marketing manager could be drafting an advertising campaign, purchasing media placements (advertising slots on radio, television or online), consulting with the sales team or reviewing customer research to help with campaigning.
From the day-to-day priorities, it’s clear to see that PR and marketing managers are both in charge of different communications activities. These activities also serve distinct functions within communications.
The function of public relations is to establish value-adding relationships with the company’s key publics. As said before, reputation management and positive image creation is the main priority. In order to build a positive reputation, the PR team will work on creating content that serves an informative or value-adding purpose. For example, how the company CEO is a thought leader.
While the PR team focuses on the greater good of the company, the marketing team focuses on the more technical aspects of the products and services, communicating the functional benefits of a particular item, to show how the target audience can practically benefit from it. It’s about advertising, promoting and selling goods to generate profits.
It’s sometimes easy to overlook the fact that a single company serves more than one target audience or that they demand attention from a variety of audiences.
In public relations, the target audience can be between multiple publics (customers, employees, investors, media contacts, etc.). For example, the PR manager can direct funding announcements at investors, using the company’s recent success as a way of attracting new financial prospects.
Marketing’s key focus is on meeting the needs of customers (new or existing). This can either be business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing and/or business-to-business (B2B) marketing. While the PR team focuses on connecting with the audiences to create a favorable public image, the marketing team ensures that the audience is aware of how their demands are being met.
When it comes to measuring the success of PR and marketing activities, there are similarities that arise. For example, increased brand visibility; elevated corporate positioning; support in sales efforts. However, measurement and ROI by both departments are set up differently from one another and can be abstract at times.
There are no set guidelines to follow when measuring the outcomes of PR efforts. Although, PR agents usually assess the number of positive press generated online (online, trade publications, broadcast, social media). Awards and special recognitions also count as a positive outcome of PR. What makes measuring PR difficult is that the results cannot always clearly be linked to ROI. However, some proven KPIs to consider include potential reach, share of voice, social engagement, quality of coverage, earned traffic, domain authority.
Measuring the outcome of marketing activities is a little easier to link to ROI than that of PR. Some of the top marketing metrics to take into account include marketing qualified leads (MQL), sales qualified leads (SQL), conversion rates, brand awareness, customer engagement, marketing spend per customer, customer lifetime value (LTV).
Depending on the PR and/or marketing campaign’s goal, different KPIs will be involved in measuring the success of activities. At the end of the day, you want something tangible to show how PR and marketing efforts contribute to company profits and ROI. KPIs make goals more realistic and help demonstrate how investments in PR and marketing support the overall company goals.
When measuring the success of PR, always look at the most important objective to achieve first. It’s important to identify how you can translate your PR activities into statistica data the business leaders can use to evaluate how these efforts contribute towards business growth. Some popular KPIs are:
This entails the number of press releases and pitches the PR team sends and how they perform after getting published. The coverage they generate and if you get a backlink can be monitored, as well as the relationship being built with journalists.
This is the number of visitors that were driven to your website as a result of earned coverage and backlinks. Remember, earned media traffic is different from traffic stemming from purchased advertising spots.
By securing link placements on third-party websites, PR can contribute to how well a website ranks on search engines. This impacts domain authority and SEO.
Same as with PR measurements, start with identifying the key items that will drive the greatest business impact. Usually marketing KPIs either focus on communications, digital activities and/or customer marketing. The set KIPs will vary, depending on the area of focus. These days, as many campaigns have an online element, some measurements to considers include:
Clicks are commonly used to measure the effectiveness of online campaigns. CTR refers to the ratio of clicks on a specific link in comparison to the number of page views, email or advertisement.
This can either be referring to Social Media sponsored ads or Google Ads. How much you pay per ad and how many clicks the ad receives is an example of how well paid-for advertising is working.
Although both PR and marketing activities contribute to the traffic gained from organic search, it is possible to measure customer conversion rate (via organic search) with specialised marketing tools
Public relations and marketing share a similar interest - to build and maintain a mutually-beneficial relationship with the public by effectively communicating with all parties involved, in order to meet the set company goals. However, the similarities between public relations and marketing should not indicate “sameness”.
PR and marketing are always inherently different from each other. As both marketing activities and PR efforts help build brands and communicate with target audiences, they create and rely on strong, clear messaging for successful programs. It establishes the brand's differentiable identity and voice.
This requires the marketing department and PR team to work together to align on key messaging, target audiences and communication strategies, in order to ensure unison of messages. For example, marketing materials, website content and email campaigns should correlate with the PR team’s contents and storytelling (vice versa), to create a unified voice across the company and brand identity.
Public relations and marketing share a similar interest - to build and maintain a mutually-beneficial relationship with the public by effectively communicating with all parties involved, in order to meet the set company goals. However, the similarities between public relations and marketing should not indicate “sameness”. PR and marketing are always inherently different from each other.
As both marketing activities and PR efforts help build brands and communicate with target audiences, they create and rely on strong, clear messaging for successful programs. It establishes the brand's differentiable identity and voice. This requires the marketing department and PR team to work together to align on key messaging, target audiences and communication strategies, in order to ensure unison of messages.
For example, marketing materials, website content and email campaigns should correlate with the PR team’s contents and storytelling (vice versa), to create a unified voice across the company and brand identity.
Think of marketing as the holistic process, the "umbrella" that holds communication activities together. Marketing doesn't consist of a singular activity, rather, multiple processes that lead us to the overall marketing & communications goal. In this sense, marketing represents the combined efforts and activities that companies implement in order to create awareness, gain customers and drive profits.
Objective: Acquire new customers and generate profits
Public relations can be understood as a support tool of the greater marketing goals. As PR is concerned with reputation management, the related communication activities set out to establish market authority of the company/brand/person in question, build trust and to gain publicity through earned-media and third-party endorsers.
Objective: Relationship building, reputation management, securing positive press coverage
Advertising is a specific action that stems from the marketing activities. Usually, advertising messages are accompanied by a specific call-to-action, for example, "limited time offer, buy now". Advertisements are also paid-for placements, meaning that companies purchase specific advertising spots or placements.
Objective: grab attention, generate interest and desire, drive a specific action
Hopefully this article helped to answer some questions about the difference between pr and marketing, as well as make the similarities between public relations and marketing clear. Key to remember is that, although PR and marketing goals might overlap, the PR team and marketing team have their different priorities and functions. Despite the PR and marketing difference, both departments should compliment one another in the key messages they share. The benefits of PR and marketing both hold great importance in achieving the overall communication goals, on this, be sure to differentiate between- and measure each element of the PR and/or marketing campaign effectively.