Messaging Matters: The Differences Between Marketing and PR


Marketing and public relations are both equally important business activities that provide certain benefits to companies. However, there are major difference between the fields of marketing and PR. Keep reading to learn about the differences and why each field is equally important.

Tangible vs. Non-tangible
The goal of marketing is to encourage consumers to buy the company’s products and services. Marketing results in tangible benefits, such as revenue and loyal customers. Marketing often focuses on tangible goals and objective results. For example, increasing sales by five percent or brand awareness by 10 percent. On the other hand, the goal of PR is to develop and improve relationships between the company and the public. Part of this involves reputation and media crisis management. PR results are often intangible and subjective. For example, the goal of the PR department during a product safety recall would be to re-build a positive image and remove negative online content.

Money vs. Image
Marketing focuses on raising brand awareness, increasing sales and reaching target customers demographic groups. Marketing is centered on basic economic principles, such as moving goods from producers to satisfy customer demand. Therefore, marketing is very customer-centric because it strives to understand, engage and persuade consumer behavior. Conversely, PR takes a holistic approach to interacting with customers. The goal of PR is to maintain and improve public opinion about the company. In a nutshell, marketing attempts to influence consumer behavior while PR attempts to influence consumer opinions.

Paid vs. Earned
Marketing uses paid media channels, such as TV and newspapers, to advertise and engage customers. As advertising positions increase in placement time and location, the associated costs rise steeply. For example, Fortune magazine notes that advertisements during a Super Bowl can cost $5 million for only 30 seconds. The best benefit is that the company has full control over the ad content and scheduled release. In contrast, PR uses earned media, such as press releases, to endorse their company. For example, they could pay a reporter to write a story about the company’s brand or recognizable business leader. The story will have more credibility and appear more organic, but the content will also be out of the company’s control. In the end, Forbes magazine cites that approximately 90 percent of consumers feel that PR is more effective than advertising and marketing. This is because advertising content focuses on directly influencing consumers through targeted messages while PR content focuses on presenting both positive and negative information. Therefore, PR content is considered to be more accurate and meaningful.

Overall, marketing focuses on advertisements to build brand awareness and increase sales. Alternatively, PR focuses on the broader goal of creating a positive image of the company and the brand. While both are very different, they each are very important to the success of every company.