PR vs. Marketing: What Does Your Business Need Most?

One of the most frequent questions we hear from clients is, “So what’s the difference between marketing and public relations anyway?” There are important distinctions between these two services, and understanding them can help you make the right choice for your business and ultimately help you reach your company’s goals.

What is Marketing?

According to the American Marketing Association, 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.” Simply put, it is the promotion and selling of products and services and includes digital marketing, advertising and market research.

While it may be tempting to only consider promoting when sales are slow, businesses cannot look at Marketing as short-term solution for low sales or a one-time activity done to promote your business. While many marketing activities can be executed to generate a quick bump in sales, they still require methodical planning, regular monitoring and timely updates to be effective. There are a variety of channels and methods for marketing efforts, and it takes a well-versed marketing expert to manage those initiatives and decide which are best for your business.

The forms of Marketing

Different forms of marketing include; social media, advertising direct mail, trade shows, SEO, PPC, and video marketing.

What is Public Relations?

The Public Relations Society of America’s definition of PR is, “A strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” While marketing focuses on the who, what, when and where of the consumer, PR is responsible for understanding the conversations happening among the public and keeping a tight pulse on trends and culture. It influences, engages and builds relationships with a company’s key stakeholders, from consumers to investors to employees. Earned media is a key component of PR activities.

Earned media is just that: earned. It differs vastly from marketing in that it is not a paid for advertising spot or commercial. It is secured by a PR professional who has spent years studying and understanding the media landscape, researching journalists and outlets, and keeping a close watch on what is being discussed by the community at large. These professionals dig deep into your business to uncover special stories that journalists want to talk about and their audiences want to hear about. Reporters, seen as credible resources in their communities and industries, help legitimize your business by sharing relevant stories and news updates about it.

When you turn on your local news station and see a featured restaurant, or when you visit your favorite news website and read about a unique business concept, you can safely assume that those stories were discovered and created by skilled PR pros working on behalf of those businesses. The stories have been carefully crafted by PR practitioners and shared with target journalists with whom those pros have developed excellent business relationships.

While earned media does not require a payment to an outlet in order to secure coverage, bear in mind that it is not necessarily “free.” Businesses hire skilled, experienced PR practitioners in order to garner the earned media coverage we see every day. Those efforts can sometimes take months as the pros research, cultivate relationships and develop powerful stories.

PR strategies are a long-term play for your business. They will likely not lead to the immediate boost in sales that your marketing initiatives will, but PR is an important way to build and strengthen your company’s reputation over time.

PR Strategies Include…

Different forms of public relations activities can include; community relations, media relations, corporate & social responsibility, public affairs, crisis management and employee relations. 

Deciding Which is Right for your Business

Marketing campaigns themselves can be carried out in dozens of ways, but they are best chosen by relying on your experts. The goal in marketing is to reach consumers and make them think, believe or do some kind of sales-focused action. If your business goal is to directly impact sales and revenue, marketing is the path your company should take.

Due to the many marketing channels out there, there are limitless ways the practice can be used to provide a quick boost for your company. For example, if you want to drive shoppers to your store on a specific weekend, your marketing team may be able to run a Facebook ad promoting your sale for a select period of time. If you are hoping to secure more warm leads for your sales team, the marketing team might buy banner ads online that, when clicked, send visitors to the form fill section of your website to request additional information. In both instances, these marketing efforts create instant, measurable successes.

PR on the other hand is more of a long-term play and is rarely a magic bullet. It takes time to build relationships and credibility with media, improve stakeholder sentiment about your company, and endear consumers to your brand.

Earned media stories act as third-party validation for your organization, so if your goal is to create or foster your company’s reputation among key audiences, earned media initiatives can help. For example, if your brand identity is rooted in philanthropic giving, a PR pro might pitch and secure coverage with local broadcast news about how your company is improving the community through giving. If your business is one of just a few spearheading a major new tech trend, a PR practitioner might work with a national magazine, pitching an article roundup covering the businesses (including yours) that are the innovative technology popular.

The benefits of media coverage, however, are reaped over a longer period of time as the public hears more and more about your product or service through third-party coverage.

Marketing vs. PR: Execution is key!

Simply writing a press release or boosting a post on Facebook is not enough to generate big wins. You need an expert and a sound strategic plan. A trusted and knowledgeable partner can help navigate the marketing and PR waters and empower your company to take advantage of the right strategies for your business. Proper execution of marketing and PR tactics is the key to driving any kind of positive ROI for your organization.

If you would like help understanding which strategies are the best fit for your company and how to leverage marketing and PR to amplify messaging, send us a note at

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