It is not uncommon for people to ask whether there is any real difference between marketing and public relations. Both seem to be communication functions of a business and both seem to promote the interest of the business, then how do they differ? The answer to the question is yes, they differ. Below are a few ways in which marketing differs from PR:


  1. Key role in business: While marketing is a business function which supports the product and sales team, PR is essentially a communication process used by the business to build a conducive relationship with its consumer. Hence, while marketing, being a line function, has a direct impact on the bottom line of a company; PR, being a staff function, has an impact on the reputation of the company and supports the company’s goals and objectives.
  2. Target group: Marketing activities such as advertising and direct marketing target present or potential customers of the brand or product. PR activities, on the other hand, aim to connect with as large an audience as possible. PR maintains and uplifts the image of a brand among the general public which may or may not convert into customers for the brand.
  3. Message authenticity: Traditionally, PR messages or content is considered more authentic in comparison to marketing content. People see marketing content as promotional material with lots of creative liberty infused into it. PR content carries a great amount of gravity and PR articles, speeches and even blogs are consumed for the information value of the content.
  4. Paid and Earned media: Marketing uses such media channels as radio, television, print and online banner ads. All these are forms of paid media implying that the brand or company has to pay for getting a spot to display its message. Earned media is free media which reaches the public through credible sources such as journalists, bloggers, press conferences, word of mouth and other influencers.
  5. Impact on ROI: As discussed earlier, marketing is a business investment which directly affects the bottom line of the company. Marketing activities are usually short term, affecting the sales of particular products. PR activities, on the other hand, have a long term image building effect and their direct impact on business ROI cannot be easily measured. Even so, PR remains an important business activity for long term brand image.


The above differences aside, PR and marketing are interconnected and often rely on each other. The combined success of PR and marketing leads to the overall success of a business. It would be erroneous to call one better than the other as both have distinct functions which are indispensable in their own right. Communication experts need to create seamless strategies which integrate both PR and marketing and don’t seek to differentiate between the two to deliver on their goals. Those looking for a career in this field may opt for PR courses or go for a full-fledged marketing course.


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