Marketing and PR Overview – A Simple Differentiation

By on April 14, 2014

The demand for public relations, more widely called by its two-letter acronym PR, is on the rise in the age of social media. This shouldn’t be surprising. Public relations thrives on generating publicity for its clients… and social media is exactly where the public, and their many opinions, are.

So what is public relations?

It has been used interchangeably with marketing but, just as a horse is different from a zebra, public relations is similar yet different from marketing.

You may ask, “In what ways are they different?”

Well, here’s a Marketing and PR overview and their differences in 3 distinct areas.

#1: Budget-wise, PR is more focused on getting the message out to as close to zero cost as possible.

A public relations campaign usually involves coming up with content about a brand, business or entity that is newsworthy enough to be picked up by members of mass media. In the digital age, this involves getting picked up by people in social media and becoming shareable enough to go viral — all this at minimal cost. With PR it’s mainly about publicity.

In contrast, marketing generally involves budget allocations for advertising and other marketing campaigns.

#2: PR is about building up an image that is relationship-worthy.

The main goal of public relations is to make the entity it’s representing look good enough to take home to dad and mom, meet the crazy uncle or the overly cheerful aunt, and let’s not forget the family dog. It’s about positioning that entity as trustworthy, ethical or, at the very least, not someone who should be in jail instead of your living room. With PR, the end goal is securing a chance at a long-term relationship.

Marketing, on the other hand, is geared towards generating leads and influencing buying behavior in favor of the brand.

So, essentially, PR is about making sure that people don’t ever feel like NEVER wanting to buy whatever it is a brand or business is selling whereas marketing is about getting people to buy what’s being sold.

It’s image management vs. communicating value.

There is an old joke, which has never really gotten old, that goes:

Q: What’s the difference between a squirrel and a rat?

A: PR.

#3: PR does not have full control over its message

Unlike marketing, which has full control over its messaging through its promotional material and other marketing collateral, public relations loses control over its message once it’s released out there in the big communications media jungle… which brings to mind another story:

A public relations consultant and his client were on their way to a meeting when they saw a fierce dog attacking a child. Without hesitation, the client rushed forward, grabbed the dog, and wrestled it to the ground.

After a terrifying life-and-death struggle, the client managed to kill the dog and save the child. As he lay on the ground, gasping for breath and unable to talk, a passing journalist jumped out of a car to ask them what had happened.

After hearing the story, the journalist exclaimed, “What a story! Local hero saves child.”

The public relations consultant interrupts him to say, “Hello, I am Mr. Smith’s spokesman and I’d like to inform you that Mr. Smith is just visiting this area.”

“That’s perfectly fine,” said the journalist. “Visitor risks life to save child. So, what does Mr. Smith do?”

“As a matter of a fact,” the PR consultant shared, “he is the chairman of a major listed company.”

The headline next day read: “CORPORATE FAT CAT STRANGLES FAMILY PET.”

Now that we’ve covered how public relations is different from marketing, please watch out for my next blog article on what a public relations job entails.

If you’re from the public relations industry or hoping to join its ranks, please let us know and share your thoughts with us by commenting below!

About John Souza

John Souza is founder and chief strategist of SMMU and Social Media Impact, and is a bestselling business author. He won the 2011 Tech Marketing Awards ‘Social Media Marketer of the Year’ and most recently the About.com Reader’s Choice Award for Best Online Education Site. John has appeared on The Michael Gerber Show, and his business has been honored at the Mashable Awards, Forbes Business Awards and The Stevie Awards.
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