Marketing vs. public relations: Clarification for the confused
I see, time and time again, in professional articles and blog posts and hear in every day conversations the misuse of the terms marketing and public relations, and it annoys me.
But I admit I am not entirely innocent either. It’s really easy to mix up these two terms because they are complementary fields that share so many similarities. They are both public facing, require many of the same skill sets and share some methods of media and public engagement. However, it is important to understand that their goals and processes for reaching these goals are distinct.
Boiled down to its bare bones, the answer is quite simple. The goal of marketing is to determine the customers that a company should sell to and to devise a strategy on how to reach them. PR involves creating a purpose-driven, active dialogue with a target audience, whether it’s potential customers, employees or stakeholders, with the goal of developing visibility and a positive corporate image and reputation by relating it to its interest groups. Consider marketing a “push” method of communication that involves designing and developing products and methods to sell a business services or products. In contrast, PR is “pull” method of communication that creates a favorable public image (or brand) of a company that will attracted and secure clientele.
In defining PR and marketing, we must consider the fact that they are constantly evolving with the changing media landscape and increasing demands of consumers. And these consumers are becoming more powerful and vocal as social technology advances and dilutes the persuasive authority of businesses. These shifts make it challenging to pinpoint definitions for each field. Here are some attempts from reputable institutions:
“Marketing is 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.”
“The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”
- The act or process of selling or purchasing in a market
- The process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service
- An aggregate of functions involved in moving goods from producer to consumer
So, simply put, marketing is the business function that manages the relationships between an organization and its markets, between its products and services and its customers to satisfy all requirements profitably.
Public Relations defined
“Using the news or business press to carry positive stories about your company or your products; cultivating a good relationship with local press representatives”
“Public relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics”
“Public relations are often a crucial part of a company’s success – or failure. In addition to handling media requests, information queries and shareholder concerns, PR personnel are frequently responsible for crafting and maintaining a corporation’s image”
Again, in its simplest form, PR seeks to foster a mutual understanding between an organization and its publics by bridging consistent communication lines with media and publics to make an organizations “good works” well known to as many publics as possible.
As mentioned previously, public relations and marketing are complementary. When a mutual understanding between a business and its publics is fostered through PR, a marketer’s job is made easier. The same is true for public relations professionals when the market fit for a product or service is clearly understood by the marketing team. A lot of professionals, ourselves included, regard PR as a subset of marketing. You can agree or disagree with this viewpoint (We welcome your comments in the box just a little south of here).
PR and marketing professionals both require similar skill sets to perform their jobs successfully. Writing skills are essential to both fields. We have written extensively on the subject of writing, including why spelling and grammar count, the importance of being able to write a clear and persuasive mission statement, the delightful, frustrating and fulfilling struggle that is the art of writing and guidance on how to improve your writing all to double-underscore and highlight its importance to both PR and marketing professionals. In addition, both fields require excellent interpersonal and communications skills as they require you to engage with all manner of publics including customers, stakeholders, clients, journalists, editors, bloggers, brand enthusiasts and pessimists. Both professionals must also be excellent researchers and be able to identify credible and relevant information and apply it to projects. For these reasons, as well as the increasing demand for social media expertise, both professionals must also be technologically savvy. Teamwork, persistence and creativity also rank high among necessary skills required for each field.
Both professionals also carry similar tool kits to achieve their goals. For example, marketing and PR professionals both develop and carry out strategies for media relations with the primary goal being coverage that is cumulative and long term. New media, press releases and newswire services, media kits, email and the good old fashioned telephone are all employed to get their messages across to the media. Both also manage the reputation of their clients by monitoring the media and Internet for positive and negative mentions and often draft responses on behalf of clients to potentially damaging remarks as a means of reputation management. Of course, these just scrape the surface of the many strategies and tactics in the PR and marketing professionals’ toolkit. Feel free to add additional similarities to the comments section below as you think of them.
In our view, what sets marketing apart from PR is that it’s about more than just outreach; it also embraces a number of higher functions that determine the very direction of an organization. While they both focus on reaching target audiences for their corporate clients, marketers are responsible for identifying these groups and their specific needs that the company’s products can address. They are also responsible for distinguishing their products from competitors and for advising on the development of new products. They decide the markets that will optimize the company’s profits and provide council on product pricing based on a perceived value. Like PR, marketing requires communications skills, but it also demands more strategic and analytical skills.
So, what’s your take?
Don’t forget, with the new joint venture with B-EZ Graphix and Fresh Touch Publicity, you can resolve all of your marketing and PR needs in one network!