PR and marketing are often thought of as two heads of the same beast – they both involve communicating and promoting a company or organization to a broader audience.

Inside many organizations, PR and Marketing responsibilities often fall on the same people, and many agencies will offer PR and Marketing services to clients. But when you boil it down, there are actually fundamental differences between PR and marketing, such as the vehicles through which to communicate, the audiences and how to measure overall results. Here’s a look at where the two fields diverge.

1. Know your Audience

PR and marketing professionals are reaching different audiences through their approach. In marketing everything you do goes directly after the “buyer” of your company’s product or client, and you frame activities accordingly. When you host a webinar or open house, you’re inviting people who already use your product or service – or those you hope will. When you write a customer case study, you hope it is read by other potential customers.

In PR, there’s more of a “buffer” between you and the customer. You don’t have nearly as many direct touchpoints with the ultimate customer, but you do end up reaching them indirectly through channels such as the media, social media and conferences. That means many of your activities will help raise visibility and exposure but not directly lead to sales.

2. Frame your Message Accordingly

Understanding the differences in your audience and delivery also changes the kinds of messages PR and Marketing pros are trying to communicate. When communicating directly with the buyer, marketing messages have more to do with products and companies, and less with perspectives on issues. Marketing messaging can help describe how a particular solution resolves an issue customers might be facing. An example of this kind of storytelling would be a customer case study that breaks down a problem someone was having and explains how that customer using your product or service helped solve the problem. These aren’t the kinds of stories that often make it to the front page of a national newspaper, but they influence the decisions of buyers and pave the way to sales.

PR’s more indirect approach means stories can’t be as directly linked to products or solutions but must tie into perspectives on issues. PR messages are the kinds that end up being communicated in a media interview and ultimately end up in print. These messages can’t sound too “salesy” and have to be interesting and relatable to someone who isn’t a customer or prospect. PR pros are often tasked with taking marketing messages and expanding them to be consumable by journalists and everyday people.

3. Measuring Success

Ultimately, marketing pros are measured by their ability to foster relationships with potential customers, highlight the benefits of their product or solution, and develop leads that become customers. While marketing is not sales, it’s tied more closely to incoming revenue, and results are linked more directly to customers’ activities.

In PR, activities and results are less directly linked to the products, solutions and customers of any organization. While many of the overall goals are the same, results in PR are often measured by media clips with overall audience numbers, message pull-through, event attendees, social media growth, etc. While these figures do help set benchmarks to measure against, they can be challenging to link directly with marketing, sales and overall company objectives.

For this reason, it’s important for PR professionals to put their results in a greater context. A media hit isn’t just an exciting win in PR – a great story raises visibility for a brand and creates an additional ‘touchpoint’ for readers. Event attendees of a conference may be potential customers. And, social media content can effectively get the message across about why people should pay attention to your organization.

These are some of the fundamental ways that marketing and PR differ. While they’re often linked to the same outcomes – raising visibility and growing the pool of potential customers, they rely on different skills, audiences, vehicles and success factors.


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RH Strategic is the PR firm for a hyper-connected world, delivering integrated traditional, digital & social media strategies for technology, healthcare, and public sector markets.