3 min read

PR vs. Marketing: The Difference

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When searching for a job in public relations, it’s common to see the majority of search results yielding open positions that are more akin to marketing roles. That’s because, to the untrained eye, marketing and public relations appear to be the same practice. But with a closer look, these are two very different, important specialties essential to successful business.

While it’s custom to “leave it to the experts” when understanding another craft, you can actually benefit from understanding the distinction between these communications strategies. Organizations that bring on marketing or PR services are usually seeking to grow in some way, whether it be through brand awareness, audience targeting, product or service promotion, industry thought leadership and more. While both marketing and PR work toward achieving these objectives, the strategies and tactics are noticeably different.

Think of it as two perspectives reaching parallel conclusions.


PR vs. Marketing

The biggest difference between PR vs. marketing is timing. Marketing is the homecoming game while public relations is the championship playoffs; while the goal is to win, it takes less time for marketing to bring home the “W” than it does to reap the winning benefits of effective PR. Why?

Marketing strategies focus on generating leads to support the sales funnel and bring in more revenue. PR focuses on building brand value in the market.

A marketing team will use its skillset to secure opportunities for customer reach and exposure, which is why businesses often see immediate value in marketing efforts. Marketing objectives, especially those including paid tactics, turn quicker results measured by consumer engagement, sale conversions and company revenue. And it works – in fact, businesses that use content marketing capture six times the amount of conversions than businesses that don’t.

But don’t mistake this work for PR or think that PR is just an extension of the marketing team.

Contrary to what most believe, the job of a PR professional isn’t just to save face from the depths of a company crisis – granted, crisis communications is a significant benefit of PR, considering nearly half of companies surveyed by PR News aren’t adequately prepared for a crisis. But PR’s ultimate job is to build connections and relationships that will shape the public perception of a brand.

Marketing may bring in more immediate leads and sales, but PR is a longer process that generates brand awareness and builds credibility through third-party validation, AKA earned media. In turn, this process fosters trust in the brand and organization. Trust is becoming more important among brands, as 81% of consumers surveyed say they need to be able to trust a brand in order to buy from them.

PR objectives go beyond the sales funnel to impact all areas of business. From talent retention and consumer trust to industry leadership and stakeholder recognition, strategic public relations can build and increase brand value that will continue to yield results over a longer period of time. These results are measured in media hits, share-of-voice (SOV) in the market, leadership and speaking opportunities, industry recognition and more.

At a high level, both marketing and PR teams might be tasked with developing and distributing powerful narratives and creative messaging. But the difference between PR and marketing can be seen in the day-to-day tactics. Marketing tactics leverage messaging on websites, social media posts, traditional and digital advertising placements and physical materials such as flyers, postcards, brochures, etc., that call for action. PR develops, implements and controls brand narratives in media outreach, interviews, news stories and more.

Ultimately, the marketing funnel is best supported by effective communication strategies stemming from PR efforts. From brand awareness to lead generation, marketing funnels much smoother with a great PR team behind it. Instead of “PR vs. marketing” this should be “PR and marketing” because both strategies aid in a company’s growth.


Stay tuned for my next blog where I discuss how PR and marketing work in tandem for increased business success.

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