Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Biz Ladies regular, Andrea Baxter, owner of Bratface Marketing and co-founder of Smart Cookies. Andrea has previously contributed posts on how to brand your business on a budget; trendsetters, influencers and connectors; sole proprietorship vs. incorporation and how to use social media to humanize your brand. Today she confronts a sometimes confusing topic, the difference between PR and marketing practices, presenting six features to help us distinguish the two. Thanks, Andrea, for this helpful post! — Stephanie
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Marketing & PR: So What’s the Diff?
I get a lot of questions from clients about the difference between marketing and PR. People often think they are the same, and everyone assumes they go hand-in-hand, but they have fewer similarities than meets the eye. To me, the differences are obvious because I’ve been working in marketing for over 10 years and have had my fair share of PR coverage, but I realize that not everyone understands the differences. So I’ve listed my top 6 differences between the two.
In businesses of any size, the marketing department allocates resources (a budget) to communications programs that will help sell products and services. Traditionally, however, PR programs almost always fall under the marketing umbrella because they can help drive marketing’s initiatives and programs to the public if there is a time-worthy and relevant story to tell. Other areas of marketing include promotions (contests and giveaways), events, trade shows, webinars, social media, sponsorships, demand/lead generation and much more. While marketing’s job is to build, maintain and strengthen relationships with its customers, the PR department’s job is to do the same with the media while getting the story out to the public.
In the case of public relations, there are many areas to this industry, including media relations and publicity, crisis management, public affairs and more. On the whole, public relations deals with earned media, as opposed to media exposure that is bought through advertising and marketing. PR is about building positive relationships with the public primarily through exposure and coverage in the media, for example, newspaper, radio, and TV newscast interviews. PR works closely with marketing in order to support publicity efforts for promotional events and any other activities that encourage participation from the public. For Fortune 500 companies, corporate PR is an integral part of the communications machine. One false statement or action, however, can send a company into a media tailspin. Remember the BP oil spill and the media buzz around the global catastrophe?
The ultimate goal of both marketing and PR is to gain customers and business while increasing revenue, with a few differentiating factors which I have explained below.
1. Paid Advertising vs. Free Coverage
The biggest difference between marketing and PR is cost. In most cases, companies will pay to have someone plan and execute their marketing and PR in a consultant or full-time employee capacity. However, it costs money to market and get ad space; regardless of whether it’s in print or online, there is most likely a price tag attached. PR is free and instant if you get the media hits you anticipated. Marketing is all about the creative, content and deliverables, while PR is about media hits, reach, the story and a reflection of the company’s reputation. A lot of companies are now getting creative in how they market their product or service to save some bucks, and social media is by far the most popular method these days. Take a look at companies like BlendTec’s “Will It Blend” campaign. They took a rather simple concept of showing viewers how well their blender works, proving that it would blend anything. Even an iPad or golf balls. The result? A global, viral campaign called “Will it Blend” that has over 330,000 YouTube subscribers and has increased sales fivefold.
2. Creative Control vs. No Creative Control
One of the biggest bonuses with marketing is that you have full creative control on what goes out to your customers and general audience. This ranges from collateral, branding and identity, messaging, tone, campaigns, contests, promotions and much more. The marketing department always controls these aspects of the company from the inside out.
When it comes to PR, however, companies often do not have control over how the media presents information, if they use a company’s information at all. The PR department can pitch any story, emphasizing areas they want the media to mention and focus on, but the media won’t always “get the word out” the way it was intended, nor is it obligated to share/cover your story. A company’s relationship between their PR employees and various media outlets are key. The better the relationships they have with the media, the better the creativity, relevancy of the story and timing of the pieces, the more likely they are to be on the media’s good side and the easier it will be to pitch stories.
3. Shelf Life
The newspaper is dead. That statement isn’t 100% true, but when it comes to marketing and PR, the newspaper is often the least-favorite tactic because it has the shortest shelf life — 24 hours to be exact, until the next day’s paper hits your doorstep. When a company’s marketing department decides to run a campaign, it has complete control over how long its campaign or ads run. Whether it’s through more traditional avenues such as TV, radio or print ads, you pay for the amount of time you want your ad to run and its reach. The longer the run time and coverage, the more expensive it will be. With PR, once you submit a press release and try to pitch your story, you often get only one chance to do so, and when (and if) the story gets published, it has a fairly short shelf life. However, the biggest bonus with PR is that a company can get media attention that is widely spread, resulting in a ton of media attention . . . all for free.
4. In-House vs. Outsourcing
Marketing and PR can be outsourced or kept in-house. The differentiator in most cases really comes down to dollars and cents. With marketing, a company’s advertising has traditionally been outsourced to an ad agency because full-serviced agencies have the resources to pull off a large-scale campaign through multiple channels. But smaller companies often don’t have the budget to hire an agency and typically opt for a consultant or smaller company to do the work (e.g., Bratface Marketing). Some companies believe that having in-house PR is the best option because their employees are 100% focused on creating pitches and drumming up stories for the media. Plus, they have the inside scoop on what’s going on and how the company wants to be perceived by the media and the public. Some companies would rather pay an in-house PR manager who spends 100% of his/her time focusing on the business than pay the same amount of money to an agency who only spends 25% of their time on the business. It completely depends on what companies are the most comfortable doing and how much money they can spend on such services.
5. Creativity vs. Nose for News
The creative difference between a marketing and a PR professional is fairly significant. In marketing, you need a flair for thinking creatively and outside the box, knowing what the consumer wants and what sells them on a company’s product or service. Creativity in PR is knowing how to take creative information (like a marketing campaign, contest or promotion) and turn it into a newsworthy story that will attract the media and create buzz. In this case, marketing and PR can work hand-in-hand to ensure that all messaging is on par with marketing’s overall objective.
6. Content is King
Marketing and advertising are always trying to find buzzwords for their campaigns in order to drive traffic, sell the product and gain exposure. When it comes to PR, you are strictly writing in a no-nonsense news format. Keep in mind that the media does look out for any blatant commercial messaging in a press release, which is a quick way to have them disregard your story. Marketing IS blatantly trying to sell consumers a product or service, and the content created is specifically written to grab the viewer’s attention. They have complete and utter control of this and therefore, determine the best marketing/advertising mediums to get the word out. You wouldn’t want to place an ad for a women’s health supplement in a business magazine.
In conclusion, the list of differences between marketing and PR can be fairly lengthy, but the examples I’ve given highlight the key areas that I feel everyone should understand about the two. Whether you are a rookie or an experienced pro, a small or large company, it’s important to know where these two industries stand and how to differentiate them from each other.