PR vs. Marketing: What’s the Difference?

What are the differences between PR vs marketing? Both are key elements for a successful business strategy, but what’s the difference between the two? This article will describe the key differences between public relations and marketing and how to utilize each for your business.

difference between pr and marketing

PR vs. Marketing

According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) what is considered “Public Relations” can be dated back to the twentieth century, focusing on press agentry and publicity. Since then, the roles and activities that comprise PR have changed due to changes in both societal and technological advances. Now, PR focuses on engagement, relationship building, and more mass communication. The current definition from PRSA states: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their public.” In short, PR uses communication across numerous platforms shapes the public perception of a business.

What is Public Relations?

The function of PR can change depending on the needs of each particular client. PR focuses on protecting and managing an organization’s reputation. PR experts frame the public opinion by anticipating and exploring the attitudes of their audience. Without a proper PR strategy, these attitudes and opinions can influence and clash with the overall business strategy of an organization. Similarly, public relations efforts include researching and evaluating the communications necessary to keep the public, especially stakeholders, informed of the goals and objectives of the business.

Public relations also includes crisis management and communication of policy changes. That’s because public ramifications and social responsibilities of the organization play a large role in overall success. More specifically, PR teams can be additionally responsible for continual research on the customer base, setting objectives, overseeing content creation, managing resources, fundraising, or leading charge in sponsorships and partnerships.

what is marketing

What is Marketing?

Marketing, on the other hand, can be described differently. The scholars from the American Marketing Association redefine both “marketing” and “market research” every three years to keep the definition accurate and relevant. Now, the term “marketing” is defined as “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.”

Marketing covers a wide variety of business functions. Marketing focuses on promoting products, services, and brands to a target audience. This includes advertising, selling and connecting with consumers in order to drive sales.

As a result, the marketing mix is a set of tools. The marketing mix consists of price, place, product, and promotion (also known as the “4 Ps.”) This is an excellent start when defining what marketing means for your business. It helps marketers understand how to put the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time.

public relations vs marketing

Goals of Public Relations versus Marketing

The differences between public relations and marketing can be best highlighted by the contrast between their overarching goals. The goals of a successful PR campaign are centered on the big picture. This means goals are non-measured, general, and synonymous with the overall business mission. More specifically, public relations goals can look like generating interest, raising awareness, providing information in press releases, and reinforcing the brand image.

You can meet these goals by organizing strategic actions such as hosting events, creating and distributing coupons or specials, overseeing social media reach, engaging in partnerships, etc. While the goals of PR can be relatively abstract, the means to reach those goals can be developed by focusing on specific objectives which are easily measurable and fall into day-to-day activities.

Goals of a marketing campaign look a bit different. The largest goals for marketers are launching new products, generating leads, acquiring new customers, increasing customer satisfaction and retaining customers. These goals are similarly vague in nature but can be approached in many different ways depending on each business and target market.

The variation in PR vs marketing goals is most clear when considering how these goals affect the end consumer. Marketing teams reach customers to change the way they think in order to do some sales focused action. Some examples include signing up for newsletters, following social media pages, or trying out products.) The goal of each marketing action is to make a sale.

PR, on the other hand, sells the company through managing its communication. This is especially important when managing the relationship between the brand itself and its stakeholders. In general, marketing activities correspond to direct revenue whereas PR revolves around a strong public reputation.

difference between marketing and public relations

Success Metrics in PR vs. Marketing

While the objectives between public relations and marketing are oftentimes different, the ways to reach those objectives can be approached similarly. Objectives in PR campaigns are more precise than overarching goals, meaning they are more explicit and measurable. Perhaps a strong objective is increasing interest in a brand and reaching a wider audience. Do this by contacting a local publication and asking them to write an article about your business.

Similarly, while marketing goals focus on sales, more specific objectives can be achieved by creating measurable and achievable tasks. For example, maybe your large goal is retaining customers. You can achieve this goal by implementing a survey for customers after they make a purchase to see their likelihood of purchasing again.

SMART Metrics

Both PR and marketing activities/objectives can be measured strategically by utilizing SMART performance metrics. The term “SMART metrics” is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely

Specificity defines exactly what needs to be achieved. Measurable refers to being able to put a number or figure on your objective. For example, a 20% increase in website traffic or doubling the amount of Twitter mentions. This makes it easier to recognize what actions are working and what is not generating proper results. Achievable objectives sound strength forward, but creating tasks that are do-able will make larger goals more achievable in the long run. Relevancy is especially important when considering how actions will align with the mission and voice of the organization at large. Getting information on the market or brand positioning also allows for the creation of more relevant and fitting objectives. Lastly, timely metrics include specified allotments of time such as 6 months or 1 week to keep schedules on track and make realistic timelines.

All of these elements combined helps marketing and PR functions reach their larger targets and track their progress in getting there.

Roles and Responsibilities in PR vs. Marketing Campaigns

The day-to-day activities within PR and marketing teams are different, too. For example, in the PR world, publicists work directly with clients to execute their brand strategy and publicity campaigns. Public relations specialists function as a liaison between clients and publications by generating both relationships and coverage. A spokesperson is another great example of what a PR professional role can look like. A spokesperson is the face of a company and speaks to the public on a brand’s behalf.

Marketing, however, can include many different types of roles in comparison to PR. Social media marketing and influencer marketing revolve around leveraging individuals with strong public influence to drive brand messaging. Relationship marketers incorporate data and analytics to target particular audiences. Keyword marketing utilizes keywords for paid advertisements by placing particular words and phrases in front of audiences that are being used to search. Content marketing refers to a specific approach that focuses on creating value for the consumer by providing relevant content.

On a day-to-day level PR vs. marketing consists of opposing tasks. PR tasks may include duties such as writing press releases, pitching stories to the media, building relationships with influencers, and managing company communications/messaging. Daily marketing functions can include items such as content creation, writing a weekly newsletter, creating advertising and content marketing campaigns, and working on efforts such as landing pages or FAQs for a business’s web page. All of these different titles and functions relate to a wide range of roles within the PR and marketing spaces.

pr vs marketing

Similarities Between PR and Marketing

Although there are many key differences between PR and marketing campaigns, such as target audiences (PR targets the general public while markets targets the consumer) and metrics (strong public relations effort would result in successful relationship building whereas strong marketing would result in significant return on investment) they do have quite a bit in common. In fact, the smaller the company or team, the more these functions overlap. The nature of both of these areas have an end goal of creating general happiness and satisfaction around a brand. It is difficult to have a strong ROI without positive brand attitudes as well. Social media, in particular, can fall directly between these two functions and can even be a creative medium for both objectives.

However your business decides to us PR vs. marketing, it is important to maintain strong brand consistency and transparency. The better audiences are able to understand you as a brand, the more likely they are to build trust. And thus, a deeper customer-to-business relationship. Your brand story will speak throughout both your PR and marketing efforts. Utilizing both of these functions in their own unique ways will allow your business to stand out from competition.

Work With the Best PR and Marketing Team at SEO Design Chicago

For help with PR and marketing for your business, contact SEO Design Chicago today! We are a full-service digital marketing agency with a team of marketing professionals and services ranging from social media marketing to digital advertising strategies. Our team can create marketing campaigns or PR strategies. You can forget about hiring entire PR and marketing departments and instead hire our agency to help you increase brand awareness, web traffic, and customer loyalty.


  • What is marketing?
  • What is PR?
  • How do you measure the success of marketing campaigns?
  • What are the differences between PR and marketing?
  • What are the similarities between PR and marketing?

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