The battle of Marketing and PR?

This week at University, I was most intrigued by a debate one of our modules had on whether public relations should be seen as a subset of marketing. Luckily, I was on the side of ‘no it should not be seen that way’, as that’s where I stand outside of the in-class debate.

Through learning about the differences of both departments, it was clear to see how traditionally they were set apart and had completely different functions. My research mainly consisted of this table below.

Public RelationsMarketing
Target audiences – PR is about maintaining positive relationships with the stakeholders of a company, which does not just include customers, but employees, shareholders and the media.Target audiences – Marketing aims to reach current and potential customers, and is the only audience that it traditionally focuses on.
Goals – PR is focused on trying to drive a positive reputation through strategy.Goals – Marketing is focused on promoting and selling the product as the only goal.
Legitimacy – Third party endorsements are seen as much trustworthy. The paid material marketing uses, means that they are seen as much tactical by the consumers and not trusted as much.
There are different elements to PR, such as stakeholder management, crisis communications, launches, speaking to the media etc. Marketing is very much focused on current or potential customers and how they can sell to them.
Two-way communicationOne-way communication
Measuring success – PR looks at press coverage, awards and buzz about the general company as a whole. Marketing focuses on sales, how the product was received and whether they managed to meet their targets and make a profit.

While that is true in the traditional sense, it is easy to see how lines have been blurred recently with the arrival of digital and social media – now we find that PR are paying for coverage as well as marketing. We can also see how PR is integrated into a marketing campaign that uses elements of press coverage as part of their promotion for a product.

In the debate we also considered how the different sectors will have different priorities and perhaps hold one above the other – commercially, organisations are perhaps more concerned with selling items but charities and the public sector could be seen to incline more towards gaining a favorable reputation.

It is easy to see why there is confusion when you consider how much the departments overlap and rely on each other, but I stand by my argument that PR is not a subset of marketing and instead should be treated as such. As one of my friends tried to point out “without marketing you won’t be able to sell products, which is what the organisation will want”, but that is useless without PR if you haven’t created a brand, no-one knows about your company, you have a bad reputation, you don’t communicate with your employees or shareholders, you don’t liaise or appease community groups, connect with and try to understand your publics, attempt to control a crisis, or work with the media.

I may be a little bit biased towards PR myself, as while both functions are needed in a company and are both of importance, PR helps you to see the wider picture and is responsible for a lot within an organisation.


-personally, Emma

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