The Relationship between PR and Marketing

December 29, 2014 Matt Allison: Founder, Chief Strategy Officer

relationship between PR and marketingBefore the introduction of social media and content marketing, the line between PR and marketing was fairly clear and it was common for marketing and PR departments to operate independently from each other. The marketer’s go-to tool was paid advertising, while the PR pro focused on generating earned media. The shift to digital and the rise of social networks has fundamentally changed the relationship between PR and marketing, leaving practitioners of both to chart new waters.

Different Goals – Same Tools

Marketing’s goal is to promote the company’s products to potential customers in a way that conveys value and drives revenue. PR’s goal is to improve the company’s reputation with the general public, making them more receptive to marketing messages. Paid advertising is exclusively under the preview of marketing, so that line is clear, but beyond that many of the tools that modern marketers and PR professionals use are the same.

For example, marketers use social media to get the word out about products and promotions. PR professionals use social media to start conversations and develop a thought leadership position. Marketers use review sites to showcase customers who are happy with the brand’s products and services, PR professionals use them to enhance, and defend the brand’s reputation. Content is another tool that both teams have in common. Marketers use content to drive visitors to landing pages, with the hope of converting visitors to leads. PR pros may use the exact same content to pitch media contacts and influencers.

Rifles and Shotguns

Few companies have the budget to invest in marketing programs that are designed solely to build brand recognition. Therefore, marketers take a rifle approach and work hard to focus their investments on potential customers who might buy soon. Paid search is a great example of this. Marketers want to attract the clicks of searchers who are most likely to convert immediately. PR has a much wider audience, and seeks to influence prospects, current customers, analysts, the investor community, potential employees and the media. This requires a more shotgun type approach, which is possible because the PR investment is more diluted given that earned and social media are “free.”

This dichotomy does set up an interesting challenge, however. Because marketing is so targeted, spend can directly, easily, and quickly be tied to results. You can compare one campaign, even one ad to another and make rapid decisions on how to optimize your marketing. PR, on the other hand, is much more difficult to measure. Doing so requires sophisticated tracking of earned and social media mentions and the changes in digital behavior they generate. Fortunately, new technology is available to meet this need and help brands determine the right mix of investment between marketing and PR.

Achieving Synergy

Because the tools and channels for marketing and PR are converging and because PR supports and strengthens marketing efforts, it is imperative for brands to find alignment between the two. PR has the ability to amplify marketing messages and create sentiment that is receptive to promotions and advertisements. Whether working for a company or an agency, PR professionals and marketers must work together to coordinate campaigns and content. A client case study, for example, might serve well as a press release, quote source for ad copy, and an infographic for social sharing.

The relationship between marketing and PR is a great example of how silos have no place in modern business. Certainly there are some distinctions between them, but smart brands will focus more on how they work together than on how they differ.

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