Marketing and PR are two peas in a pod.

They have many similarities and work in tandem, but they aren’t the same. Businesses need to understand how to set expectations and goals for PR that are realistic and complementary to marketing goals.

It’s easy to think Marketing and Public Relations are two names for the same thing because they are so closely connected. They both require knowledge about the target audience and the company’s offerings. They both involve quality communications. Sometimes they use the same media outlets to reach their audience. And occasionally, PR can act a little like marketing and drive sales. In many companies, Marketing and PR efforts work hand in hand, and in others, they don’t. It’s crucial the two work in lockstep with each other, but in many organizations, they surprisingly do not.

PR and Marketing efforts are a little like trying to get someone to go out with you.

Remember dating in high school? Here’s a little story to illustrate the difference between PR and Marketing.

Meet Tony, a senior in high school. Tony has a huge crush on Chris but is too shy to ask for a date. Tony has tried dropping hints around Chris, smiled a lot, and even boasted in earshot about being on the honor roll, winning an athletic and a music award. Chris hasn’t noticed.

Tony goes to Mark for help. Mark suggests Tony give him $25, and Mark pays Chris $20 to go out with Tony. Chris accepts. Mission accomplished. Now it’s up to Tony to make a great impression on Chris so there can be a second date.

In example B, Tony asks Patrice for help. Patrice knows a few people who know Chris; she asks Jan to tell Chris that Tony is an amazing singer – knowing Chris likes music. Jan agrees and talks to Chris. Next, Patrice asks Dan to tell Chris that Tony is an incredible athlete and talk up Tony’s athletic abilities so Chris is aware.

Then Patrice asks Stan to talk to Chris about what a great science partner Tony is and casually mention that Tony is on the honor roll. Finally, Patrice goes to Diane and asks if she can vouch for Tony as being an all-around incredibly nice, funny, intelligent, athletic, and musically talented person. Diane agrees. The next time Chris sees Tony, Chris has formed a favorable opinion of Tony, and when Tony smiles, Chris smiles back and even says, hi, how you doin’? They strike up a conversation that leads to the date.

In the first example, Tony drops hints around Chris and eventually pays Mark to pay Chris to go on a date with Tony. This is like advertising what a great product you have and offering a free sample, a deep discount, a free gift with purchase…all marketing campaigns that get a customer to try a product through a straightforward ask.

Patrices’ journey took longer because she had to influence Chris through the efforts of four different people, all sharing information from their point of view to frame a picture of Tony for Chris. She didn’t know precisely what they’d say, but because she had good relationships with them and a clear idea of things that mattered to Chris, she could move the needle over time. This is PR. It’s a long game that takes time and works through various channels and messages delivered by others.

And also important to note that while all of this PR effort is happening on Tony’s behalf, Tony needs to behave like the person Chris hears about, or their hard work goes out the window, and crisis management will be required. Patrice and Tony will need even more time and effort to change Chris’ opinion.

Marketing campaigns spend money to share controlled messaging through targeted advertising channels directly to potential customers. PR campaigns spend time building relationships with third parties that endorse the company via mentions in articles, interviews, rankings, awards… to their audience. The company has no direct control over the endorsement message.

And that word “direct” is important. When companies and PR teams have built solid reputations and relationships with journalists and analysts, they’re more likely to have messages framed favorably. So while they may lose control, they will have some influence on what others say about them.

There’s another critical distinction between PR and Marketing: measurement.

Tying a marketing campaign to new leads or sales is usually straightforward. And many people think the same is true of PR. If you get a podcast interview or a mention in an article – you’ll automatically see your sales numbers go up. While sometimes this happens, most PR efforts are harder to measure and should be evaluated differently than marketing in how they positively impact your company.

There are ways to measure the effectiveness of PR campaigns, and that’s something to discuss with your PR team based on the results you want to accomplish.

Let’s sum it up.

Marketing promotes your company and products to drive sales by conveying your message directly to potential customers through paid, targeted campaigns, and it’s easier to measure success through direct sales goals. PR builds relationships and reputation to frame your company in the right light to the right audience via a third party who controls the message, and the benefits are seen over time.
Don’t expect PR efforts to have an immediate boost on your sales numbers. Do expect, with time and the right strategy, to see those efforts impact your company’s reputation and influence in your market.

Looking for the right PR strategy to complement your marketing efforts, or want to know how PR could benefit your specific situation?

We would love to strategize with your team to explore how solid PR strategy and efforts can help with your overall goals.
Reach out, and let’s have a conversation,

P.S. Be sure to check out all of our Upright Uptake episodes and blog posts for more helpful PR tips, and if you have a topic you’d like us to cover or a question for us, reach out anytime; we’d love to hear from you.