Every exec at some point in their career has been sold to by both PR and marketing firms, but what’s the difference — and do they really have to be separated into different disciplines? Furthermore if they can be combined, does PR now have a permanent place at the marketing and communications table?
Is PR Different From Marketing?
Historically, public relations and marketing have always been housed in separate camps. Be it internal departments or unaffiliated external agencies, it’s a separation that reflects a widely held industry viewpoint: that the two disciplines are exclusive of each other, and therefore incompatible. Yet as many trends now suggest, the differences between modern marketing and PR, aren’t quite so set in stone. Not anymore at least.
A core offering from any well respected communications firm is quality content. Content that’s easily relatable for the public, relevant to the target audience, and published with the objective of influencing a reader’s opinion or product consumption trajectory.
The same can be said of the core components in PR. At the very center of every preplanned PR campaign, is that same quality content. A story with a strong hook, written in a style that a journalist can easily adapt and publish for a relevant target audience. Something that will also ultimately influence a reader’s opinion, and even their future actions.
The communications strategy behind content marketing helps sell a product. PR content syndication helps sell a product, a person’s opinions, a platform, or a brand. So if the differences between PR and marketing aren’t so clear cut anymore, how can you tell where content marketing begins and public relations end?
PR vs. Marketing
Despite having similar campaign outcomes, there are still a multitude of differences between PR and Marketing. Ultimately PR is a different animal because it entails a larger proportion of real time reactivity vs. carefully pre planned and long term communication strategies.
PR is crisis management when a corporation destroys an ecosystem with an oil spill. It’s reputation management — and if necessary — social rehabilitation when a public figure becomes too familiar with an intern. It’s thick-skinned interaction with bulldog journalists hungry for a quotable slip-up. This is the reactive component of public relations that will always exist in a separate sphere from that of marketing.
However, it’s the proactive elements of public relations, that blurs into what modern marketing and communication have become. PR teams spend weeks, if not months, carefully plotting a campaign to garner coverage of quality content. Their client then appears online, on television, on the radio and in newspapers, in line with that plan.
Marketing and communications agencies spend the same amount of time strategizing campaigns with paid ad placements across those same mediums. However, when they then combine this with quality organic content that garners unpaid exposure, their efforts begin to morph into PR.
When Does Marketing Turn Into PR?
A good example is when a blog written for a marketing and communications campaign is read by more people than an article written by a top New York Times columnist. In this instance you remove the gatekeeper journalist and their publication from the equation and instead you engage the public directly. In essence, you become a media outlet in your own right. From here media inquiries start to pour in, the reactive elements of PR are activated and you or your communications firm has to be ready to capitalize on direct journalist interaction.
PR & Marketing: How Can You Integrate The Two?
Opinions and attitudes on this differ greatly, especially among the goliath old guard PR firms who prefer to keep the disciplines separate at all costs. However, the more savvy communications strategists out there have already integrated marketing threads like PPC campaigns, reputation management, and video production with public relations.
The UK firm, Stickyeyes, was one of the first to do so, combining reactive and proactive PR with SEO to deliver marketing and PR campaigns for Hilton Worldwide, MTV, and Hertz Europe on a multinational basis.
On this side of the Atlantic, The Symphony Agency successfully executed the same model of pairing a PR outreach with strategies like long burn organic SEO content drives and multi-vertical outreach strategies on social media. The average result? Coverage in dozens of national TV outlets, print and digital column space, thousands of YouTube views, interview requests that continue for years to come, and surges in web traffic that drive sales conversions.
When Should I Seperate PR & Marketing?
Just because you can integrate PR and marketing, doesn’t mean you always should. For example, if your client has a stockpile of lifesaving PPE that they want to share with those most in need — for free — during a time of international emergency, you should absolutely light that PR torch and signal the media to help you identify where to send it. You shouldn’t then immediately launch an ad campaign to drive sales of that same product.
On the flip side, no media outlet is ever going to get excited about a PR pitch detailing a Post-it note that’s resistant to extreme acceleration and zero gravity. However if you hyper target aerospace execs on LinkedIn with a video-demo ad campaign, you may well end up with a contract to supply the International Space Station with stationary.