I’ve met a lot of people lately at various networking events who have asked me what the difference is between marketing and public relations.

I have to admit, even for me who works in these industries, they can be at times two very confusing concepts… They both look at the promotional potential of a business and they both try to look at a product or service from the customer’s perspective. Add to this the fact that some marketing agencies extend their offering to include some public relations services and PR agencies refer to their clients’ marketing calendar to devise appropriate activities and you’ve got quite a puzzling situation in hand.

So let’s try to demystify this ‘marketing PR’ confusion a little by first looking at marketing.

Marketing vs public relations

Marketing is a whole process that involves researching, promoting, selling and distributing your products or services. It looks at four specific elements: (1) the product development; (2) the product price; (3) the distribution channel and; (4) the promotional strategy. The promotional strategy can include initiatives such as exhibition attendance, direct mail, advertising, online marketing, public relations and so on.

This leads us to PR and you might have guessed from this description that public relations is in fact a subdivision of marketing. It is a marketing investment that helps raise the public profile of an organisation and its products or services over time to create a position of market leadership. In essence, PR is the systematic effort to create and maintain goodwill towards an organisation or, in social media terms, ‘fans’, ‘friends’ and ‘followers’. We focus on this third party endorsement to add credibility to the messages communicated about the organisation and its products or services.

To achieve this ‘goodwill’, PR practitioners use tools such as media relations and media coverage, online PR (social media, websites, forums, blogs, etc.), newsletters and other non-paid forms of communication.

Hopefully I have shed a bit of light with this explanation. I’d be curious to know if other PR or marketing consultants would have a different opinion or simply something to add to my explanation…