Oct 2023

Marketing and PR, cousins not siblings

Written by Stevie Harding

Marketing and PR, cousins not siblings

Marketing and public relations are two related but distinct functions within a company. While there is some overlap between the two, there are several key differences:

Related, but not as closely as you might think

Fundamentally, marketing is to promote a company’s products or services to reach and appeal to customers or clients. Marketing focuses on advertising, selling, and driving sales. 

The purpose of PR is to build and manage the reputation and public image of a company. PR is trying to spin or create positive media coverage, managing communications and relationships. In this sense PR is synergistic with marketing, adding another layer to the top of the sales funnel above marketing, both guiding potential customers to the brand. While sales and marketing are siblings directly related, needing to essentially hand over customers from marketing to sales. PR shares the common relation of effective communication, but sits in its own realm, requiring a different knowledge set to earn media coverage rather than purchase it.

Living on the same street

Marketing and PR often both rely on mass communication but achieve it through different means. Marketing pays for it’s views, billboards adverts etc, PR earns it’s views. This is why a good PR team can punch far above its weight class. If you have a marketing budget and run programmatic ads you can predict exactly how many impressions you’ll get, and roughly what conversion rate it will have. A PR team can take a small brand with no budget and get them on the evening news in front of millions. This is because knowing the media landscape and which messages and stories can act as levers which allow a smaller company to achieve a larger amount of influence. Open letters are a great example of this. A relevant open letter can encourage other firms to add their signature, borrowing their credibility by virtue of being perceptive to the concerns of other firms and the wider market.

Measuring the intangible

Measurement is an important part of marketing and PR because both have a perception of being intangible. Key marketing metrics are sales figures, traffic, conversion rates, and ROI. The measurement of which has been massively enabled by digital advances compared. PR focuses on impressions, mentions, message pull-through, and brand visibility. Marketing is becoming increasingly quantifiable; the technology behind PR measurement is still being developed with different platforms that support PR analysis using different methodologies. Despite this, modern methods of analysis such as share of voice and power of voice are able to give an indication of public perception and impact. This measurability is key to communicating the value of PR and with modern technology it is now much easier to meaningfully evaluate the impact of a firm’s PR.

While marketing and PR are complementary disciplines, marketing aims to drive sales and transactions. PR involves indirect promotion, primarily through third parties, to build brand awareness and manage reputations. Marketing sells products, PR sells perception. With different purposes, tactics, audiences and results, the two have distinct approaches. 

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