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What’s The Difference Between Marketing and PR?

By Katie Barber,posted on April 22, 2019

More than once, I’ve been saved in customers phone contacts as “Katie Barber PR”. At parties, my friends introduce me like this – “This is Katie, she works in PR.” Which gathers a lot of raised eyebrows and impressed looking expressions (PR is glamorous). I then have to say, “I’m not a PR, I’m a marketer.” To which people usually reply “what’s the difference?”

The PR industry has been fabulously caricatured by Eddie from Ab Fab. Although the reality is slightly less glamorous. (Still more glamorous than marketing though.)

The main difference between PR and marketing can be summarised in one sentence: PR’s main concern is raising a positive reputation for a brand, and marketings main concern is increasing the sales in a business.

Marketing and PR overlaps as we sometimes use the same tactics.

The confusion occurs because we may use the same tools to achieve our goals. PRs and marketers use social media, emails and blogs to communicate with customers. But while the PR is focussed on reputation, the marketer is focussed on increasing sales.

A business needs both. Not one or the other.

One is no better than the other, both have a role to play in business and a marketer may hire a PR if they have identified that the brand reputation is getting in the way of sales. A marketer may decide, “ok, we’re launching a new product, better get PR on this to make it look wonderful before we start attempting to advertise”. A product or service is so much easier to market if there has already been press attention about it and the company before it is even released.

Say you’re launching a new app. A press article designed by PR reaches your Google happy customer with the message “this app was created by a lady who has been named as one of the top women in tech, who has a rags to riches story and is heavily involved in charity work, and the app has already been awarded the most useful app of 2019.” That would make the life of a marketer and salesperson much easier, when it comes to the actual selling of the product.

In large businesses, PR and marketing may work completely independently from each other. There are some situations a PR may work in, where a marketer would be completely useless. Such as in the case of a celebrity needing to fix their brand image after a scandal.

How each is measured.

To see whether we marketers are doing our job properly, we look at figures within the business that proves business is growing, the businesses audience is growing and sales numbers are going up.

A PR measures their work in a different way. Their results are more difficult to prove but are still important. They might hold focus groups or surveys about how a group of customers feels about the brand.

Day to day a marketer could be working on:

  • Providing supportive content for the sales team and analysing their figures. Perhaps working on CRM.
  • Creating e-mail marketing campaigns.
  • Writing web and blog content.
  • Using social media.
  • Creating advertising campaigns online, on TV, radio or in print.
  • Showcasing the business at events.
  • Creating print marketing such as brochures or flyers.
  • Making sure the website is converting into sales.

They might hire advertisers, content writers, designers and event organisers to do parts of the work.

Day to day a PR could be working on:

  • A positive pitch about the brand for a newspaper, magazine or TV show.
  • Writing press releases to be distributed amongst journalists.
  • Working on social media campaigns or blogs to paint the company in a positive light.
  • Writing in-house case studies, blogs and speeches.
  • Arranging events for a key person to speak at, show at or attend.
  • Answering media enquiries.
  • Sponsorship opportunities, open days or charity events that could be used to create a positive story and attract press attention.

Both a PR and marketing strategy is needed to ensure the long term survival of a business.

How to decide whether to hire marketing or PR.

In businesses where budget is low and you need to decide whether to prioritise PR or marketing, it would be good to think about what your in-house abilities currently are and what your priorities are. You may be able to do some parts of the marketing and PR yourself, and then hire content writers, advertisers or social media specialist to do part of the work. A PR may only need to be used on an ad hoc basis.

The end result.

The end result of both marketing and PR is ideally more money for your business and a good PR will get you lots of press attention, backlinks to your website and a general hubbub of positivity when someone Google’s your business. A good marketer will help you discover ways to increase your customer base, ideally within a year. They really are quite similar, but very different, and both are useful.


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