The lines between public relations and marketing have become increasingly blurred within the current business model. It’s unsurprising, given the fact that public relations professionals and marketing professionals often use the same tools to accomplish seemingly similar end goals.
The reality though, is that while the lines between the two are indeed blurred at times, they are distinct in what they endeavor to accomplish, and the business that fails to utilize both of their strengths, will also fail to take advantage of every potential lead, and by extension, every possible conversion.
In response to the question of whether or not defining the two still matters, Rebekah Iliff writes for Mashable,
“The truth is, it does matter — because ultimately these two functions stand in closest proximity to the customer. Thus, our ability to engage our audiences is directly related to how we think about the marketing and PR. If we can’t find a meaningful way to respect and understand the strengths and deficiencies of each discipline, we will be left with a waste of effort, human resources and — ultimately — capital.”
While it may appear that there is little sense in fleshing out the differences in PR and marketing, and what they look like on a practical level, that assumes that customers will not be impacted by an unwillingness to strategize.
They both offer a unique catalog of strengths that are crucial to an organization’s ability to thrive, and thus each company, even those set on merging the two departments, would do well to recognize how they can implement the important aspects of them both.
So, what is the difference?
If it really does matter that PR and marketing do not have the same definition, then a meaningful conversation about the two has to begin by determining how in fact they do differ from each other.
The goal of those working in public relations is to use the tools available to them to craft a favorable public image of their company and/or brand. The weight of the whole of the reputation of their organization rests upon the shoulders of those within the PR department.
The majority of their time is spent crafting communication for the public that revolves around the strengths of their company. A PR professional will craft press releases for the media, talking points for the public faces of the company to utilize at speaking events, and will work to build relationships with the media as a whole and with industry influencers. They are always pursuing positive engagement with the press and media.
A PR person will be able to measure their success by the nature of social media engagement from both the target audience of the brand as well as influencers and other industry professionals. If the press treats the brand well, and if events include awards and speeches from company figures that are well-received, a PR person will know they did their job well.
Marketers are interested in highlighting the products and services that their company offers. They rely on advertising and market research to ensure that they are effectively promoting what their organization has to offer, which in turn generates leads.
In relation to the most important aspects of a marketing department’s direction the business experts at Arizona State University note, “Having a solid foundation in business principles and the ability to work well with others, multi-task, solve problems and effectively communicate can come together to help make an effective marketing director.”
Marketers create the advertising campaigns that ultimately sell products. They purchase the advertisements a company relies upon for conversions, and they write the material that is distributed to support products, like newsletters and online landing pages.
A marketer knows they were successful at their job if sales goals are met or are exceeded. They analyze the profitability ratios in financial statements to compare what they spent promoting a profit compared to the revenue that product generates. And they will also look at how well-received their efforts were on social media platforms and by other industry leaders and influencers.
The aforementioned analysis will, hopefully, clear up any confusion about how the two departments operate differently. However, it should also clarify why they become muddled. Marketers and PR professionals will often use the same channels, with similar content, to achieve their goals.
A marketer will demonstrate why the target audience needs what the company offers. A PR person will create the brand trust and awareness that will communicate to customers why they should pick your organization to have the need met. Thus, a strategic approach to PR is one of the best ways to secure lead generation.
When Merging The Departments Makes Sense
You need both, because they target different, important, goals that a company must do well to do well in an ultimate, bottom line sense. However, there is a trend to mesh the two fields into one, wherein a department has all of the aforementioned in the crosshairs.
The public relations experts at George Washington University point out that organizations are increasingly joining the two efforts for both financial and cultural reasons.
They write, “By merging PR and marketing, many organizations are hoping to apply a common system of metrics to the two and, as a result, align PR more closely with revenue generation.” Additionally, “Greater attention to analytics spurs a culture of collaboration, further enhancing the use of marketing and PR data as part of a virtuous cycle.”
What this means is professionals often don’t see clear-cut differences between PR and marketing, because there are driving forces both in terms of the numbers and cultural climate within industries to create a cohesive PR and marketing effort where the lines are indistinct. You cannot do one well, without also doing the other well.
Ultimately, merging these two departments can be strategic as long as your organization is able to accomplish all of the things that the two, distinct departments were responsible for. You have to see how each entity contributes to the whole so that if you merge them you do so without fear that something will slip through the cracks.