While public relations (PR) and marketing are closely related – and are often used together – they are actually two distinct business functions. PR involves all forms of communication within and from the organization, while marketing is limited to outward messages, mostly for the purpose of selling. Some PR programs use marketing strategies, such as advertising, but such strategies may also be based on PR.
Marketing is most effective when backed by PR
Marketing works on what they call the four P’s: products, price, place, and promotion. Often, the primary focus of marketing is advertising, which makes it more direct and more aggressive than PR. The main purpose of advertising is to sell the product or service. PR, on the other hand, takes care of the organization’s reputation – not just its products – and in the long run lends credibility to the marketing strategy. PR creates and maintains a mutual understanding between the company and its current and potential clients.
For the practitioner, PR is more extensive and challenging than marketing. Among the tasks of the PR professional are researching the market and resources, establishing corporate identity, organizing press launches, writing press releases, and producing corporate newsletters.
In most cases, PR work directly affects the success of the marketing and advertising campaign. For instance, PR research can determine which forms of media are more frequently accessed by the target consumer, so the marketing team knows what type of advertising material will be most effective. This is a common mistake among small and start-up businesses, who think of marketing and PR only in terms of advertising. Some products have failed to sell because they relied solely on advertising to break into the market, without building up a reputation or creating prior knowledge of the company.
Why PR is better than marketing
Because it uses mass media, advertising offers more immediate effects and much greater revenue than PR. However, these effects are usually short-term, and as explained earlier, they need PR to be effective anyway. PR is a cheaper, less visible process, but when properly executed, its effects are long-term and will make marketing cheaper, or at least more efficient, in the long run.
Flexibility is another advantage of PR over marketing. Because it’s a dynamic process, it’s easy to change a message or subject midway through the PR plan. The same applies to skills and resources – an advertising team must consist of competent writers, artists, designers, and media specialists, while a PR practitioner is well versed, though not necessarily an expert, in all fields.
Ideally, however, marketing and PR are complementary rather than competing strategies. Except for very large companies, it is usually too expensive to keep up a marketing campaign for long periods. PR can help fill in the gaps between aggressive advertising periods by maintaining brand loyalty – basically, making sure that the name stays popular even without much presence in the mainstream media. Not all organizations need marketing and advertising to succeed, but everyone employs some degree of public relations, at least at the internal level.