biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: the difference between PR and marketing

by Stephanie

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 budgettrendsetters, influencers and connectorssole 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

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

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.

Follow Andrea on Twitter @andreabaxter as well as Bratface Marketing @BratfaceMrktg. Or you can “like” Bratface Marketing on Facebook.

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  • This is a very helpful article, but I would submit that this piece is distinguishing between marketing and media relations, not PR as a whole. Just as PR is a subset of an organization’s marketing and communications practice, media relations is a (dominant) slice of PR. PR strategies can include social media, speaking engagements and events, all in addition to media relations.

  • Brigitte – My article really was to have PR as the main umbrella, with all of the components of PR under it. Media relations is definitely a component of PR along with the other areas I mentioned. I wanted to ‘generally’ explain what the biggest differences were between the 2 were because often they are confused as 1 entity. Either way, thanks for your comment and I’m glad you found it helpful:)

  • I think another difference is that PR (media relations in particular) is easier to DIY than say, advertising. It’s all about your relationships with bloggers, journalists and influencers. If you’re good at networking, you’re probably pretty good at PR!

  • I agree with Lizzy about about PR being easier to DIY. Also, if you’re a small, unknown company, odds are drumming up some positive press would probably be more effective than taking out an ad. While traditional marketing gets your name out there, having other people say good things about whatever product or service you’re selling will make a bigger impression on a potential customer than seeing an ad that you put out there yourself.

  • This is a really helpful article – especially to those who are just starting out. It helps to explain how marketing and PR can work hand-in-hand in some cases, how they are extremely different in others and also highlights that PR can be done by oneself – especially helpful if you’re just starting out and trying to keep costs to a low. Thanks again.

  • Lizzy -great point and I 100% agree. The relationships you start to obtain over time with media, bloggers etc certainly help to get PR. Thanks for sharing & glad you found the article helpful! – Andrea

  • Interesting blog post, especially since I work at a PR firm :) It’s true, some companies do prefer in-house PR execs, particularly if you can’t afford a PR firm. =) However, I speak with reporters all day long, and have established relationships with them already. If they know who I am, they trust that I offer them resources them good companies. During the recession, many of my clients have cut their internal marketing groups and kept the PR firm on board, given our success rates with drumming up publicity for the company, ultimately leading to sales/profit. Of course, this all depends on how good your PR firm is :) Having a third party perspective on what an “interesting” story angle might be, as opposed to someone who works full time at a company, can be valuable as well.

    My two cents!

  • thank you for posting this! i work in PR and am constantly asked by people outside of the industry asking “is it like marketing?” now i have a place to point them :)

  • Thanks for this! I’m a marketing editor with a PR/editorial background, interested in communications as a whole. I feel a little more grounded after reading your concise breakdown—we sure can use them!

  • I work in PR and when I started off someone told me this: The difference between PR and Marketing is this: In Marketing – a guy will tell you directly hes good in bed; in PR – all his past lovers will tell you hes good in bed.

    Gotta love third-party credibility!

  • Another great Biz Ladies! Hat tip to you for this great source!

    I feel clearer about PR vs Marketing as well, and Codi topped it off well :-D

    Thanks so much, Andrea for all the great info you share, especially for small, new bizes!

  • Wishing desperately I had read this *before* throwing myself into a PR education and a year at an agency. Now I’ve transitioned into marketing and it’s a m u c h better fit for me. This should be required reading for all PR students! :)

  • I *wish* I had read this before I went for that awful job interview, where they asked that exact question. oh well, I know for next time! thanks!

  • This was an interesting read, although I didn’t find it to be altogether realistic. It read as if “public relations” was synonymous with “media relations” and completely tactical in nature. A great amount of creativity and big-picture strategic thinking is involved in the long-term planning and day-to-day of PR campaigns, in order to tell companies’ stories in meaningful ways to the intended audiences. People see right through a lot of the pay-to-play promos out there, and it’s become increasingly necessary to have a high level of relevance and credibility to make an impact. PR is all about being ahead of the curve on trends so that you can manage a company’s reputation and stance in proactive, not just reactive, ways. The shelf life portion about news stories made me smile, because this is really no longer the case — people primarily read their news online, which negates the 24-hour cycle, and the smaller the news room staff becomes, the more we see syndication of stories rise. One hit often means pick-up across different markets and link love online. If it’s a good story, that’s wonderful. If it’s not, PR people are the first to hit the ground running with damage control. The hope is always that if you’ve done your job well all along,the company’s reputation will have enough equity to withstand some hiccups along the way. Thanks for the food for thought — and to those thinking about PR, it’s been a constantly interesting and changing field in which to work. Good luck. :)

  • As a PR consultant that just had to explain this very subject to one of my clients today, this article made me cringe. I am confused as to why DS would have a Marketing professional write an article explaining PR? Why not have a PR Professional explain PR? PR traditionally has to continually educate Marketing – along with everyone else – on their role and function, and do it with a smile, and this article pretty much highlights exactly why. My suggestion would be to ask the people you know working in each discipline, as they can use examples relevant to you which is always the best way to wrap your head around the intricacies and clear distinctions.

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