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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Hardcastle

Marketing vs. PR: What's the Difference?

Over the past year and a half, I've had to opportunity to work with an awesome, female-owned PR firm (shout out to MAG PR!), and paired with my years of marketing experience, it's opened my eyes to how powerful the combination of public relations and marketing can be. But first, let's establish the basics. People often use the terms "marketing" and "PR" interchangeably, and while there is some overlap, they really are two different beasts.

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. (source: AMA)

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. (source: PRSA)



Alright, time to break all that jargon down. When you're thinking about marketing, your focus should be on highlighting the attributes of your product or service that will be most appealing to your target customer. It includes your messaging to customers, and the distribution of that messaging. Channels of distribution can include:

- Email

- Social media

- Advertising (print or digital)

- Events or trade shows

- Your website

This is not an exhaustive list, but for most small-mid sized brands, it's a great place to start. Marketing teams do a lot of audience analysis, copy writing, content creation and often work closely with sales. An analogy often used in consumer goods is that sales gets the product on the shelf (selling it into the store), marketing gets it off the shelf (purchased by the consumer).


Public Relations

Moving on to public relations, we'll shift our focus towards relationship building. Public relations involves building strong, positive relationships with the public and the media. PR can be especially important for new and emerging brands, who need to get their brand and story out in the public for the first time.

A public relations agency can help your company improve or maintain it's reputation, often with the help of earned media. Earned media includes news coverage, content shares, social media interactions and customer reviews. This type of free media is extremely important, as customers trust these sources and use them to make decisions.

PR also employs owned media to help tell your brand story and steer the public narrative. This includes advising on the content and functionality of your website, social media profiles and blogs. The advantage of owned media is that you and your PR agency have complete control over it. The "downside" is that customers know that the content is coming from you, so they don't get the validation of a secondary source. Still, having a strong web presence and providing information and value to potential customers is essential.

Like marketers, public relations professionals wear many hats, and we've barely scratched the surface (lurking below are things like crisis communications, government relations and industry events). I'm happy to dive deeper into any of the topics in this post; just let me know what you're curious about! And as always, reach out with any marketing related questions or conundrums.



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