The Difference Between Marketing and PR: Which is Better?

marketing and public relations

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Marketing Vs PR

Railroad tracks have two rails. For a train to move, it needs both of them. The rails are separate and distinct, but they work together. If one fails, it becomes difficult for the train to move forward with any speed or consistency.


Public relations and marketing are like the two rails of a railroad track. To operate at its fullest potential, a brand needs both. They work together to move a brand forward with speed and consistency, but they are not the same thing. They reach similar stakeholders, but they reach them in different ways.


So what is the difference between the two? In essence, marketing is focused on promoting a brand’s products with the goal of selling while PR is focused on promoting a brand’s persona with the goal of maintaining a good reputation. To oversimplify, marketing is about what you do and PR is about who you are.

Marketing vs PR

Common marketing activities include conducting market research, managing marketing campaigns, and developing marketing materials like websites, promotional videos, and advertisement. Marketers buy ad space, track ad engagement, and analyze the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. Marketing initiatives are primarily focused on how to promote products and attract new customers.


Common public relations activities include tracking trends in the news, identifying relevant media outlets, building relationships with media connections, writing press releases, pitching story ideas, and coordinating opportunities for company representatives to connect with the press. PR initiatives are focused on maintaining a positive public perception and bolstering the overall brand reputation.


PR and Marketing: Do they overlap?


Primarily, PR and marketing overlap in two areas: message and audience. As a brand maps out its value proposition, it will define its target audience and how it will uniquely position its products or services to connect with that audience. Once the value proposition is established, the PR and marketing teams will use that information to develop their campaigns.


Because the two have overlapping objectives, it is valuable to coordinate their efforts. It would be detrimental to have a lack of consistency in brand messaging. Just like with the railroad tracks, marketing and public relations strategies should be pushing in the same direction.



Difference Between Marketing and PR Strategies

While the two have the same target audience, marketing and PR strategies each focus on a different way of connecting. Marketing efforts seek to make a direct connection between a brand’s advertising campaigns and target market. A PR campaign seeks a connection that is mediated by a third party to lend credibility.


For example, if your brand sells electric trains, you may launch a marketing campaign that involves running ads in Model Railroader. The ads would have the goal of driving new sales by announcing a new product, promoting the benefits of using your product, or encourage readers to visit your website.


A PR campaign focusing on the same readers would seek to have the editor of the magazine publish an article about your company. Through a press release, you would share information on the innovative features of a new product or the expertise that one of the company’s executives could share with the magazine’s readers. In effect, positive press serves as an endorsement by the editors. It is earned media, rather than paid media. It accomplishes the goal of boosting your brand’s reputation.



Should strategic communication utilize both PR and marketing?


To achieve optimal growth, brands should include both PR and marketing in their strategic communication plan. As the electric train company seeks to connect with the readers of Model Railroader, it does not need to limit its efforts to either PR or marketing.


Many brands will seek to align their PR and marketing efforts by coordinating campaigns to focus on the same communication channels. If you know that your brand will be featured in a publication, you could plan to run ads for your products in the same publication. The editorial coverage lends authority to the ads while the ads supplement the information that is provided in the coverage.



Are the metrics the same for PR and marketing?


Marketing professionals and public relations professionals have the overall goal of seeing a brand succeed. However, they have different metrics. Here’s a breakdown of what a marketer might measure:

  • Did we meet sales goals for a product?
  • Did market share increase?
  • Was ROI for a campaign positive?
  • Did followers increase on any social media channels?

Marketing Metrics

Here are some things that PR professionals might measure:

  • How many pieces of coverage were secured?
  • What is the total online readership of the publications?
  • How many online views did the coverage get?
  • How many awards did the brand achieve?
  • How has the brand improved its rank in search engines?

PR metrics

As these metrics increase in a positive direction, PR and marketing contribute to the accomplishment of a company’s goals.



Have the traditional definitions of marketing and public relations changed in recent years?


While the heart of both PR and marketing has not changed over the years, the growth of digital marketing and social media has resulted in the blurring of some of the lines that have traditionally separated the two. This can be attributed to a host of developments in the world of communications, including the creation of new tools for delivering information and a change in perception as to where the best product information is found.


The growth of using influencers as a means of brand building provides an example of this. Influencers straddle the line between marketing and PR. They attract a following based on the information that they provide. Their message to the public includes a blend of organic and paid promotion. To an influencer’s followers, the difference might not be obvious. To be promoted by an influencer can both drive sales and promote a positive public perception. When it comes to evolving areas like influencers, the difference between marketing and PR become less clear.


Overall, it is important to know that marketing and public relations are two tools that can be used to drive an organization’s growth. They use different approaches to promoting brand awareness and different metrics for measuring success. However, they both pursue the same goals of business growth and brand-building. Any brand that wants to excel should take advantage of the positive impact that both marketing and public relations can bring.

Nik Korba

Nik Korba

Nik has been a screenwriter, ghostwriter, novel writer, song writer, and blog writer with a degree from the University of Miami. He has prepared communications for thousands online and on social platforms, as well as being involved in the production of more than 1,000 videos.
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