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The Differences Between Public Relations and Marketing Explained to Improve Strategy

By Kieran Powell

October 2, 2020

Public Relations (PR) and marketing have a common objective: achieving desired business goals. Despite this similarity, there are differences in how PR and marketing strategies are implemented.

Marketing is a broad term that encompasses the action taken to promote a business or brand. Effective marketing uses various channels like digital marketing (including search and social media) or traditional paid promotion.

All channels have a role that contributes to marketing. When actioned together they push a business toward meeting its overarching business goals. Goals might include building brand awareness, engaging high-value customers, creating a sales pipeline, business growth, securing funding or appealing to investors.

The purpose of PR is to tell a brand’s narratives through third-party outlets. Media mentions through third-party outlets that are not paid for are known as earned media. PR creates newsworthy narratives that work toward desired results.

Owned media vs. earned media

The reliance on unpaid third party media outlets is one of the main differences between public relations and marketing. PR earns media coverage or features. Marketing, on the other hand, promotes by creating content on a channel they control, like a blog or social media platform. Alternatively, marketing uses paid advertising.

The value of earned media is what makes PR powerful. Earned media acts as a vote of confidence for a brand or business. Third-party credibility is more believable than a brand showcasing its own narrative on owned media channels.

Media coverage is only possible if narratives are relevant and stories compelling. In order for a brand’s stories to be relevant, it has to be appropriate to the audience or relevant to the times. PR has to be newsworthy and news has to be ‘new’. If news has already gone out to a subscriber list of 100,000 it is less desirable to media outlets. Therefore PR dictates content strategy for marketing, because marketing can repurpose content.

How do PR and marketing work together?

Successful PR and marketing is managed by a senior team member who understands the business from a strategic standpoint. Ideally, this person will be a PR specialist. He or she will engage reporters and strategize PR’s goals based on the overarching marketing goal for the business.

It’s crucial to engage a PR specialist before strategizing. If engaged early, PR and marketing can co-create an effective content strategy through strategic planning. Through strategic planning teams create the narratives that are going out.

PR continuously finds compelling stories to share with outlets — even if there’s seemingly nothing to share. PR creates and shares a messaging map with marketing. This map details which narratives are suitable for which audiences, how and when they will be used. PR directs marketing to keep communications aligned.

The role of PR in marketing

Although PR’s focus is on earned media channels, some PR is improved through marketing. For example:

  • Tradeshows provide speaking opportunities. Speaking is PR, but marketing handles promotion of events.
  • Media coverage is PR, it includes company mentions, full profile pieces about products, employees or companies, news, and interviews with subject matter experts. Media coverage is unique to PR and exclusive of marketing.
  • Events create PR and promotion opportunities. Companies host events or launch parties and invite the media.
  • Press conferences sit within the vicinity of PR. PR teams arrange venues, draw in relevant press contacts, coach the speakers and help craft their presentations. Marketing promotes the event and raises awareness and increases attendance.

As much as PR is improved through marketing, marketing is also improved through PR. For example, marketing teams will likely have a digital strategy, which includes lead generation and search.

PR’s role in digital marketing is earning mentions on other websites, which results in a link to the mentioned site. Links from credible sources increase website authority and traffic. Marketing capitalizes on PR’s efforts through strategic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and a prospect pipeline that turns traffic into leads.

How to measure PR’s impact on marketing

PR focuses on earning features, but an effective PR strategy goes beyond media coverage. It has measurable marketing goals that influence the entire marketing strategy. If executed well, the objectives of PR will surpass vanity metrics like media mentions.

Measuring PR is not just about press hits, but increased media opportunity, consistent positive reputation management, and increased brand awareness. Additionally, PR done well has a direct impact on marketing. 

Marketing can measure PR through link quantity and relevancy, increased domain authority and website visibility. Data analysis will correlate spikes in traffic with efforts from PR.

The Difference Between PR and marketing: a summary

  • Public relations and marketing work in sync, in pursuit of common goals
  • The focus of PR is on earned media channels, whereas marketing promotes through owned channels like blogs and social or marketing relies on paid advertising.
  • Marketing’s efforts supports PR through promotion of tradeshows, events or media mentions
  • PR guides the content marketing strategy, as the reliance on news means that PR has to have content first. When marketing follows PR’s guidance, strategy is consistent.
  • Marketing, unlike PR can reuse and repurpose content for an undetermined amount of time, ‘newness’ is less important to marketing
  • PR drives media mentions and links to a website, which contributes to website visibility and increased traffic. Marketing capitalizes on PR’s results through strategic SEO and prospect pipelines.

About Channel V Media

We are an award-winning New York City PR and communications agency and we have more than 12 years of experience.

We build market momentum for Fortune 500 and Emerging companies. Advising on Communications Strategy, PR strategy, and digital marketing. CVM builds awareness for companies and their products, develops C-suite leaders into industry visionaries, positions clients to be among the most vocal in high-value conversations, and drives inbound leads.

Clients include IBM, Bluecore, Grapeshot + Oracle, iQ Media, Fortune & Frame, and others.

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