As a full-service public relations, advertising, and social media firm, we’re often asked to explain the difference between public relations and marketing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in our New Jersey office and been asked, “What is public relations?” or “How does PR fit into the marketing mix?” These are also questions I was asked over and again during my tenure as chair of the Public Relations Society of America.
To start, here are the official definitions of marketing and public relations:
“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”
– The American Marketing Association
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
– Public Relations Society of America
Both disciplines emphasize research, strategies, tactics and measurement. Essentially, marketing is about facilitating a business transaction; it certainly includes communication like paid media, but also takes into account processes and systems. Marketing looks at consumers and demand and typically measures short term results.
In contrast, public relations is about facilitating the relationship between the organization and those it serves — improving cooperation and support for an organization or cause. PR should incorporate communication strategies and tactics, but must also consider institutional and individual behavior and the impact of these on relationships and reputation. Good public relations should also bring information back to the organization and recognize the value of awareness, persuasion and creating an environment where marketing efforts can thrive and organizations can engage with consumers, voters, investors, etc. Effective public relations will help encourage an authentic conversation and, at the same time, reduce threats to the long-term success of the organization.
Public relations consultants must be counselors, strategists and tacticians and look at the whole organization, including both internal and external publics. Government and public affairs, investor relations, media and press relations, social media, internal and community relations all fall under the public relations umbrella — which is why PR should report directly to the C-suite. It’s the only communication discipline that is both internally and externally focused.
Successful organizations value the integration of marketing and public relations and recognize that companies, non-profits, associations, and even governments must nurture key relationships to ensure the success of their marketing, fundraising, and outreach efforts.
In fact, a survey of chief marketing officers at major national and global advertisers conducted by the Association of National Advertisers found that the value public relations delivers as part of the overall marketing mix is increasing.
♦ Public relations is closer to the perspectives, objectives and concerns of corporate CEOs than any other communication or marketing discipline.
♦ Public relations also sees “the whole corporate picture” as it relates to issues CEOs worry about.
♦ In addition, public relations is a key driver of business outcomes critical to organizational success, including crisis mitigation, reputation and brand building, consumer engagement, sales generation, wealth creation, issues management and beneficial shifts in constituent attitudes and behaviors.