Here's the difference
by Michelle Matos
As someone studying both marketing and public relations, I often hear people refer to these subjects as “basically the same thing.” It’s very true that many aspects of each of these subjects are similar or overlap. Marketing and public relations (PR) both attempt to reach the public, position a brand, and communicate a persuasive message. So, what’s the difference between the two?
First, here are the official definitions of public relations and marketing:
The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “an activity that helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other” (PRSA, 2017).
The American Marketing Association Board of Directors 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” (AMA, 2017). Both definitions involve communicating with the public. However marketing covers a broader range of activities and includes an exchange of value, or a sale.
Despite the many similarities, it is important to remember the differences between these subjects, so that you may pursue the one that will most help you reach the exact type of career that you want. Keep on reading for four ways that public relations differs from marketing.
1. The Purpose.
The purpose of marketing is to generate revenue. Marketing initiatives are driven by sales goals, and focuses on promoting products and service to achieve those goals. The purpose of PR is to promote and maintain a company’s image. Public relations initiatives are driven by goals for public perception of an organization, and focuses on relationships between the organization and its publics.
2. The Scope.
Marketing is the overall mix of activities that you undertake to generate awareness, trial, and purchase of your product/service among your target market. This can be accomplished through many different tactics, and public relations is one of them. Good PR can allow a business to keep attracting consumers and therefore drive sales. Integrated marketing campaigns often include a public relations plan in addition to other marketing strategies. Marketing wants consumers to take action, while public relations is a step for consumers to get there.
3. The Target Audience.
Marketing primarily targets the consumer and potential customer. Public relations attempts to reach all stakeholders of an organization in addition to the target market, including employees, investors, suppliers, the media, the community, and the government.
4. The Communication Approach.
Marketing delivers information to the consumer, while public relations tries to control the flow of that information. Marketing is a one-way communication approach, while public relations is more of a two-way approach, which builds bridges of communication between an organization and its stakeholders. Marketing is proactive, while PR can be reactive. For example, in a crisis situation, public relations can be used when an organization may have to react to a problem that might damage to a company’s reputation as a whole.
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