“Is PR the same as marketing communications?”: a question that PR professionals are accustomed to hearing when they tell someone they work in public relations. As our world adapts to become a more digitally progressive society, the lines between PR and marketing have blurred. While PR and marketing communications have many similarities – and are often used to complement one another to achieve a similar end goal – there remain some differences.
To oversimplify it, marketing communications is more focused on driving profitable sales growth, while PR seeks to build a positive brand reputation. PR often doesn’t have the same impact as marketing in generating sales opportunities, however, it is instrumental in influencing behaviours, shaping customer attitudes, and managing brand reputations. On their own, they are effective; together, they are a very powerful business growth enabling combo.
The fundamental distinction lies in the way public relations and marketing contribute to the bottom line, but it’s important to be aware of the differences so you can maximise both.
In what way are PR and marketing different?
Marketing communications often focuses on reaching existing and prospective customers, and while, public relations also targets these audiences, its ability to build reputation means that it is also critical for organisations seeking to reach and influence other audiences and stakeholders such as influencers, investors, politicians, legislators and employees.
While both PR and marketing communications professionals segment their audiences based on their company needs and goals, PR practitioners spend much of their time trying to generate earned media (as opposed to paid media) which makes PR content more valuable. After all, an article written about a company by a credible and non-bias journalist is proven to be five times more influential than an advertisement of the same size. Therefore, PR is very successful in driving behaviour change and plays a key role in converting potential customers.
PR and marketing communications practitioners additionally have different goals in mind. PR focuses on enhancing a company’s reputation by building relationships and a positive image through activities such as content creation, media relations, events, and sponsorship. Meanwhile, marketing focuses on cultivating relationships and delivering targeted messages to encourage customers to buy goods or services.
Impact on the sales funnel
When considering the customer journey, PR plays a key role in maximising brand awareness and closing sales opportunities, while marketing is very effective in creating sales opportunities. PR does this by distributing compelling content that seeks to convert audiences into customers. By consistently communicating positive messages via engaging social media content, thought leadership or business stories, potential customers will begin to see your company as an industry expert. After all, someone who visits a company’s website after reading independent editorial content is more likely to purchase their product or service. Earned coverage written by a journalist helps to validate customer decisions.
While PR plays an important role in positively influencing how people think about your business, marketing - through activities such as SEO, online and traditional advertising, email marketing and retargeting - is very effective in generating sales opportunities. Having said all that, the blurred lines I referred to earlier come into clear focus when you consider how PR can drive lots of online traffic and positively impact on SEO.
In times of a crisis, PR professionals are often called upon to support a company to manage reputational damage and positively impact on public perception. In today’s digitally progressive society, instant access to social media can cause negative media attention to suddenly go viral.
When a business experiences challenges, the positive reputation that it spent years building can be destroyed in seconds. It is therefore imperative that a PR professional acts promptly to mitigate any damage. Brand equity is an essential element for the survival and prosperity of any business. PR protects brand equity by aligning businesses with the right strategy to diminish any negative attention.
In what way are PR and marketing similar?
While PR and marketing communications are different disciplines, they share many similar objectives such as increasing brand visibility, driving corporate profiling, building and fostering effective relationships, and promoting sales. The two professions complement each other, yet are also heavily reliant on one another to ensure the best return on investment. Just imagine how difficult it would be for a marketing team to increase sales if the company suffered from a poor reputation.
In order to achieve success, both functions should align their strategies so they can bolster a company’s image and build positive relationships with their target audience.
Keep in mind that Bill Gates famously once said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.” If you would like to find out how Comit can help you grow your business through great PR, please get in touch.