I find many people are confused by the two and although they may seem similar, there are very distinct differences.
What is Marketing?
Marketing is the process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling that product or service. It's all about identifying and understanding your customers and giving them what they want. Marketing aims to satisfy a need but also works to create that need through compelling strategies that encompass channels like advertising and social media campaigns. The aim is to generate leads, move stock and influence the buyer.
What is Public Relations?
Public Relations or PR as it is otherwise known, is the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organisation and the public. It's the process of establishing goodwill and a favourable opinion about someone or something through carefully crafted communications that are pushed through various form of media. It's all about perception and establishing a great reputation for your product or brand.
How do they differ?
There are four key differences between marketing and public relations:
Traditionally, marketing is any paid promotion you undertake and usually requires some kind of an investment. Some examples include: driving traffic to your website through Google Adwords, communicating your latest promotion via an advertising campaign both in print media and online, catching the eye of passers by with point of sale material or window decals, designing a compelling email offer to drive sales.
Public Relations is generally free publicity generated as a result of the story being picked up by relevant media sources. An integral part of this function comes down to the relationships the Public Relations Consultant will have with various contacts in the industry as the media outlet is more likely to run a story from a trusted source. However, if the pitch is newsworthy and right for their demographic, then an editor is likely to mention it anyway.
Marketing offers total control over the message and the medium(s) it will be used in. How customers perceive it is another story but effectively, you hold all the cards. On the other hand, public relations hands over the reigns to the party you are pitching your story to. A press release will mention all the relevant facts in the hopes that the media will focus on these, however, you can never be sure that you will be quoted accurately, or if the story will be picked up at all.
You can run an ad campaign or continue to use a marketing strategy that works over and over again until it no longer yields results. On the other hand, a press release about a particular story or event can only be submitted once to a media outlet and when the story has run, an editor is unlikely to publish it again - unless you give them something fresh and exciting to talk about.
Consumers today are cluey. They know when the wool is being pulled over their eyes with a cleverly crafted marketing message (not that I'm saying all marketing is deceptive!) Most people understand that these promotions or tactics are designed to sell a product or service. This differs from public relations because people tend to view an article written by a third party about a brand or business as being more credible than a paid piece of marketing. They trust the source and hence are more likely to take an interest in the product or service.
Which one should you choose?
In todays business landscape its hard to draw a definite line between the two disciplines and if you're a business owner, it's likely that you are already doing a bit of both. Ideally, marketing and public relations should be used interchangeably as they complement each other but it all depends on what business you are in and what your goals are. Its best to have a think about what your main focus is before you invest resources in either. Is it important for you to drive immediate sales and generate leads? Do you have an interesting story to tell or are you wanting to raise awareness of an innovative product or service you've established? Focus on your objectives first and then find the most effective tools for delivering these.
Do you use a mixture of marketing and public relations in your business? What have you found to be the most effective? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.