5 Differences between Marketing and Public Relations in 2021


5 differences between pr and marketing graphic

As the world of marketing and PR evolves, so do their similarities and differences. And, let’s face it, working from home during a pandemic has molded all of our job functions to consist of sending passive-aggressive emails and awkwardly unmuting ourselves on zoom.


Awkwardness aside, crack open any marketing textbook and you’ll learn that Public Relations is considered the 5th “P” of marketing. For reference, the other 4 are “Place, Product, Price, Promotion”. This means that Public Relations is so integral to the world of marketing, that a bunch of old white dudes in suits decided to make it official in textbooks.


Any-who, here is a breakdown of a few key differences between working with marketing and PR.


1. The focus of PR is to build reputation & awareness, not sales.


Whether you’re branding a company, person, or product, the brand’s unique value proposition (aka elevator pitch) should be clearly defined.


That’s when PR comes in. A good Public Relations manager should have access or connections to reporters at various media outlets. PR’s job is to take your elevator pitch and craft it into an engaging, newsworthy story to share with media, and ultimately build brand awareness.


On the other hand, a good marketing manager will know how to use that brand awareness to build advertising campaigns, optimize your website, and ultimately collect more leads & potential customers for the sales team.


See the funnel graphic below: PR focused work tends to focus on ‘top of the funnel’ efforts to build general awareness in the public’s eye, while marketing focuses on ‘middle and bottom of funnel’ efforts to drive business results for the sales team.

2. What you pay for: PR vs. Marketing


Let’s compare what deliverables a business owner would be paying for when hiring a PR agency, versus a Marketing agency.


When signing that check for a PR firm, you are paying for the agency to:

  • Write out press releases

  • Build media kits

  • Craft some newsworthy pitches for the media

  • Use media connections to tell your story

  • At times, limit negative press


When contracting a marketing firm, you could be paying for the agency to:

  • Build advertising campaigns

  • Manage your social media

  • Redesign your brand look

  • Improve your website

  • Build landing pages/funnels for potential customers

  • Collect leads to pass on to the sales team

2. Keeping track of Return on Investment is easier with Marketing than PR


When it comes to marketing in the digital age, a huge chunk of companies’ marketing budgets typically goes to advertising on digital platforms.

With the advancement of ad platforms, marketers are able to get an idea of clicks and sales on an advertisement, to be able to measure Return on Investment from a specific ad campaign. In contrast, for PR professionals, measuring the impact of media coverage is more difficult because less solid data is available to keep track of.


3. Reputation crisis? Step aside Marketing!


Did your company just cause an oil spill or did the lettuce in your burrito bowls have salmonella? This is where the PR team steps in. Sometimes called Crisis Management, the practice of salvaging your brand reputation is in the hands of your PR team.


In fact, if your PR team is really good, they should already have a handy dandy “crisis handbook” on what steps to take when your company finds itself under a bad spotlight. Is it writing out a press release? Posting on social media? Booking TV interviews? Speechwriting for the CEO? All of these functions belong to Public Relations, usually with minimal input from marketing.


4. How to find a good PR or Marketing Agency to work at?


If you’re looking for a reputable agency to work at, here’s what to do:

  1. Research job postings on LinkedIn.

  2. Look closely at their Benefits & Perks. Do they have flexible PTO? What is their office vibe like? Can you bring pets into the office? This will tell you a lot about their philosophy as employers.

  3. Start reading their Glassdoor employee reviews and customer reviews on Google.

  4. Apply, apply, apply!

5. How to find a good agency to hire?


If you’re looking for a good marketing or PR agency to hire for your business, do this:

  1. Seek out referrals from peers or connections.

  2. Ask for case studies and review the work they’ve done.

  3. Read past customer reviews on Google.

  4. If you’re on the fence, ask for a 1 to 3 month trial before committing to a large retainer.

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