A friend of mine asked that very question a few days ago and I realized that I hadn’t given the differences between the two areas very much thought.
Honestly, from what I understand, many of the elements of each job function are almost identical. In Marketing and PR, we focus on communicating the messages of the company or brand to the most relevant audiences. We both conduct research to decide what those messages should be and determine who should receive them. We both plan and staff company-sponsored events and trade shows, and we both help create content for marketing collateral, assist with advertising and put together similar types of proposals, budgets and reports that illustrate ROI.
Where I believe the key difference between Marketing and PR lies is in objective rather than function. I would like to know what others think, but for me, the major difference is that marketing efforts are in place to facilitate the sales process, whereas PR focuses on building and strengthening relationships between the company and its stakeholders.
A company stakeholder can be anyone who is affected by, or interested in the activities and/or products of the company. A stakeholder can be those who happen to live in the surrounding community, employees, customers, shareholders, investors, etc.
The primary activities that separate PR from marketing are:
- Public Trust. In PR the foremost objective is to get others to write/talk about the company, its executives or its products in a way that underscores the company’s messaging. This process involves getting the company’s information in front of a journalist or blogger whose audience might actually be interested in what this company is doing. The primary reason for doing this is third party credibility. People who read/watch/listen to this journalist or blogger on a regular basis are probably doing so because they trust them to deliver useful or interesting information. Having a person with this kind of public trust deliver your message is like having each of audience members’ good friend deliver your company’s messaging. Best practices for how this is actually done is another post entirely, but feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.
- Executive Positioning. Most executives are usually extremely busy people. We help research professional and nonprofit organizations that would make the most sense for the executive to form stakeholder relationships and facilitate the introduction process with these organizations to ensure a good fit between the mission of the organization and the company. We also research and identify speaking opportunities to help position the executive as a thought leader in his/her industry and promote these engagements through the channels previously highlighted.
- Community Events. Now, I understand that marketing professionals are involved with events in very much the same way, but I am still under the impression that most of the events marketing individuals are involved in are more sales oriented. While several exceptions to this rule exist, most of the time we are involved with events that are centered around fostering a positive presence in surrounding communities or simply to introduce a community to a brand for the first time. For instance, we might run a booth at a public concert giving away refreshments or branded giveaways and host activities in a branded booth to communicate the company’s investment and/or interest in the quality of life within the surrounding community without any implicit or explicit sales directive or pitch.
As the relationship between companies and the media changes, I believe that the day-to-day elements of the jobs will look increasingly similar with convergence marketing/PR strategies that focuses on fostering long-term relationships between individuals and brands; where every stakeholder is treated with the respect of a potential customer.
Am I wrong? Tell me. I’m just trying to figure all of the stuff out that I didn’t learn in school. As an aside, I spent the last few years immersed in Flaubert, Faulkner and Joyce… If you know any great Marketing and PR books, please feel free to make a recommendation; I have some catching up to do.
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