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Are Marketing and Public Relations the same?

I’ve been asked many times to explain the difference between marketing and public relations.

Of course, they are different, but since I am a marketer running a company that also handles Public Relations, I thought it would be helpful to get the perspective of a practitioner that is primarily a PR professional. I posed the title question to two of our strategic partners.

Bill Corbett, Jr. of Corbett Public Relations is one of Long Island’s leading public relations firms and a strategic partner with Lorraine Gregory Communications, and Louise Cassano, owner and principal of LuCas Communications, and a longtime associate and member of Public Relations Professionals of Long Island.

Bill says the following: “The primary difference between marketing and public relations come in how it is used to generate attention and awareness.  The ability to directly connect dollars spent to success is more easily done when measuring marketing activities.  Public relations is considered earned media; while it comes at a cost (paid to a firm or internal staff PR team members), the funds paid do not go directly into the creation or purchase of the attention grabbing vehicle.  Instead, PR professionals are paid to convince the media to cover the company or business.  In other words, they earn the coverage in the newspaper or on the TV news program.”

Bill hits the nail squarely on the head. The many facets of marketing include research, strategic planning, branding, graphic design, social media, direct marketing, printing and mailing in various degrees. Marketing can also include broadcast spots on TV, Cable, and Radio. Although the human interaction and access to special skills is critical, it is different than being able to pitch a journalist, reporter or producer to cover your story. In some respects, Public Relations is a ‘soft’ process that can be very ‘hard’ indeed. PR relies on relationships, connections and of course the ability to communicate a story worthy of coverage.

According to Bill Corbett, Jr., Marketing and PR work best when they are executed together as part of an overall strategic marketing effort. Every marketing plan should have a PR budget, goals and strategy.  PR should be looked at as a long term branding, awareness and reputation strategy.

Marketing activities are funded by budgets that directly relate to the development of memorable content and the creation of innovative advertising campaigns that inspire the consumer to buy the product or service. These efforts are designed to generate awareness, build brand loyalty, generate leads, create opportunities and support sales.

Codependent is a good way to explain how and why PR and marketing go together.

Louise Cassano gives an excellent nuanced observation that makes total sense. “Public relations is an integral part of the marketing mix. It is the assembly of the fingers that make up the hand, comprises the mechanism for emoting feelings, functionality and focus.” Can anyone’s hand be considered just a bunch of five independent digits? Of course not. That is what makes Louise’s hand analogy exactly correct. “The hand (or the marketing process) is a compilation of all of the elements that make a marketing plan; that is, product, price, channels of distribution, promotional activities and, subsequently, evaluation.  The fingers (or the public relations program) point to the analysis of those elements through research, action, communication and, subsequently, evaluation.”

Both Bill and Louise agree that while marketing defines the product, its value, how it will physically and promotionally reach the public, it’s public relations that puts a voice and often a face out in the marketplace to advance the attitudes and behaviors associated with a product or service. Therefore, developing and deploying spokespersons is part of the PR function, as is the placement of articles and the hoped for media coverage related to the core campaigns.

Hand in glove, makes marketing and public relations work. Different, yet so important to one another.

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Greg Demetriou

Greg Demetriou

The author, Greg Demetriou is the CEO of Lorraine Gregory Communications, the founder of GregsCornerOffice.com and the host of the Ask A CEO video and podcast show. He can be reached at [email protected].To learn more about Greg, read Greg's full bio page.