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Public Relations vs. Marketing: What Are the Differences?

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With new technology and increased acceptance of public relations by executive teams, both public relations and marketing have grown more complex. Both areas of expertise are moving towards more distinctly separate roles in business.

While the differences between marketing and public relations are easy to describe from a tactical point of view, it’s often harder to describe how each role contributes overall to a business’ success. It’s important for companies to be able to tell the difference between public relations and marketing, but it’s as equally important to understand that marketing and public relations are reliant on each other. Without them both, a business will not succeed.

Here’s our breakdown to compare the differences between public relations and marketing:

1. Target Audiences

One key difference between public relations and marketing is the target audience. Public relations is all about keeping up positive relationships with anyone with an interest in the brand or organization, including media, customers, shareholders, and employees. Meanwhile, the goal of marketing is to reach both potential and current customers.

2. Tactics and Activities

Marketing ends to cover direct marketing, promotional, and advertising that seeks to return direct sales. Public relations is more focused on managing a brand or company’s reputation by generating positive media coverage and positive communication with stakeholders.

3. Legitimacy of Messages

The messages received through PR chapels like reputable bloggers, articles, or conference speakers are seen by consumers as being more legitimate than messages presented through marketing tactics. In most cases, people can tell that marketing and advertising are done because of a company’s desire to increase sales. When it comes to articles with a well-known writer’s name on them ted to be received as a credible source by the consumer.

4. Two Goals

The goal of a public relations team is to sell the brand or company through positive marketing between a company and its stakeholders. Marketing goals are to reach consumers and to make them do something, buy something, or think about some kind of item or service. Marketing is all about selling the product or service, thus they are all about achieving direct revenue whereas public relations is about trying to drive a positive reputation using effective strategies.

5. Longevity

Marketing activities are relatively short-term while public relations sees benefits over a long period of time. Thus, marketing should result in instant and tangible sales success while public relations is more of a long-term investment that will return future achievements.

6. Business ROI

Marketing is a business investment: paid promotional and branding activities with the ROI (return on investment) being new customers. It’s harder to classify public relations, but technically it is free exposure for increasing the credibility around a brand or company’s image. It’s harder to measure ROI for public relations than for marketing because it’s harder to track a change in beliefs or spending habits based on PR than it is to track direct sales.

7. Metrics of Success

Near the end of a marketing campaign, a marketer can ask a few questions to determine if the campaign was successful.

  • Looking at how much you spent on the marketing campaign compared to the profit made from sales, was the ROI of the campaign high?
  • Did the product you marketed meet or exceed your sales goals?
  • Did your marketing generate a great buzz from industry influencers, social media followers, customers, and the general public?
  • A PR person would measure his or her success like this:
  • Plenty of good press in connected trade and top-tier publications and broadcast outlets, either for the brand or a product.
  • Awards won at high-profile events.
  • A great speech given by one of the company’s executives at a high-profile event that generates more good press.
  • Lots of positive buzz from journalists, social media followers, industry influencers, and the general public as a whole.

8. Overlap

To be fair, you cannot market a company or product without doing a little PR, and you can’t do a little public relations without some marketing. This is because the end goals of selling your product and making people happy are two intertwined. If no one likes your products, the public probably won’t think much of your company, and if people don’t connect with your brand, they probably won’t purchase your products.

Add in the wonders of social media, and you have the ability to either benefit greatly or suffer terribly from its access. One minute, you could be dealing with journalists on Twitter or managing a disgruntled consumer over Facebook in the next.

9. Digital Marketing and Digital Public Relations

Similar to more traditional channels, digital marketing includes any activities that drive an instant action from consumers, like promotions, ads, search marketing, and EDMs. Digital PR’s concept keeps its relationship management function, with more emphasis placed on social media channels.

Some companies have found that moving marketing to social media can actually negatively impact a brand, so the trend has been for social media being handled by PR experts instead of marketers.

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