Public Relations vs. Marketing: What’s the Difference? A Detailed Synopsis from Detroit’s Original Firm

Two different disciplines.
Two different audiences.
Two different goals.
Two different writing styles.
The word “different” in each of those sentences has special meanings in each context.

Trust us, we know.

As Detroit’s original PR and marketing firm, we’ve pioneered writing for each purpose – especially as consumer tastes and the media landscape have changed since 1964. Since our founding, we’ve been the one-stop-shop for a multitude of clients seeking both services in various capacities.

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Definition

Marketing is defined as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society. Public relations, as defined, is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

Differentiators:

The differences between PR and marketing can be broken into five items:

  1. Focus. At base, marketing focuses on products and services, while public relations focuses on relationships.
  2. Function. Both marketing and PR are management functions, however, the two serve different purposes. Marketing is a line function that directly contributes to an organization’s bottom line. Public relations is a staff function that indirectly supports an organization’s goals and objectives.
  3. Target. Marketing’s target is the customer. Marketers strive to meet customer demands in order to move goods and services from producer to consumer. PR targets a range of publics and goals that collectively support an organization’s objectives. Examples of these publics (or stakeholders) include customers, the media, employees, suppliers, the community, investors, political leaders, financial and trade analysts and more.
  4. Carryover benefits. Public relations contributes to organizational success by building and maintaining a positive social, business and political environment. Studies show a customer’s favorable perception – shaped by positive, well-placed news coverage (likely generated by PR) – benefits and “lifts” an organization’s marketing and price promotion strategy. Interestingly, such carryover benefits are not reciprocated by the other marketing functions (Mark Weiner, “Unleashing the Power of PR”, (2006), p. 8).
  5. Paid, earned and owned media.
  • Paid media– This marketing mainstay includes print, radio and television advertising. Paid media plays a major role in the marketer’s campaign strategy and consumes the bulk of most marketing budgets. An extreme example is Super Bowl advertisements. According to Sports Illustrated, FOX charged up to $5.5 million for a 30-second spot during the 2017 Super Bowl.
  • Owned media – Examples include websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter profiles. It hasn’t been established which function – marketing or PR – holds the key to social media’s kingdom.
  • Earned media– Earned or “free” media is part of the PR professional’s playbook. Earned media is published through third parties such as bloggers, journalists and other influencers. It also includes word-of-mouth transmission via social media. Earned media is perceived as more credible than paid media because of third party-endorsements. On the downside, free media is “uncontrolled,” meaning an organization cannot affect a story’s slant. Still, free media offers a cost-effective way to win customers, as illustrated by an AT&T marketing-mix study detailed in Weiner’s book. According to the author, the analysis revealed that PR’s cost-per-customer-won was substantially less than other AT&T marketing-mix agents such as advertising and direct marketing ($17 versus an average $77). PR’s thrifty attributes stem primarily from earned media.

Goals:

As mentioned above, there are different end goals for each function:

  • Marketers strive to meet customer demands in order to move goods and services from producer to consumer.
  • PR targets a range of publics and goals that collectively support an organization’s objectives.

The difference in writing styles:

 Many times marketing writing is focused on sales and is part of a paid or owned media campaign. The copy can be driven and directed by the organization where it originates. Public relations typically generates earned media and is primarily used to establish third party credibility. Since it is ‘free’ the originator does not have control of how the end story is written.

There are some basic tips in how content is created for both styles of writing below:

 Marketing:

Six basics for writing marketing copy:

  1. Know your audience. Knowing who you’re writing for is the first step in creating good copy, but you’d be surprised how many companies skip it.Without a clear vision of your customer base, it’s impossible to strike the proper tone and speak the right language.
  2. Find your voice. The best marketing copy seeks to reinforce the brand image of the company it’s speaking for.
  3. Be brief. Brevity is difficult to achieve, but it is essential to successful copywriting. Short, impactful copy is more likely to be read, understood and shared—all home runs in the world of marketing.
  4. Make it memorable. Balancing brevity with punch is where science and art meet (and why hiring a talented copywriter will always pay off). Without flair and creativity, brief copy is, well, just brief.
  5. Clarify the action. Very few pieces of marketing copy exist purely to inform. There’s always a goal, and that goal should be clear to your readers.
  6. Unify copy with user experience. In Web parlance, user experience (or UX) refers to how an online user navigates content. Think of it as industrial design for the Web.

Public Relations:

Keeping the information above in mind, there are some similarities in writing with marketing how there are a number of ways PR professionals reach out to media, two of which are the pitch and the press release:

  • A media pitch gains reporter interest in contacting an expert as a way to offer an expert resource (you!), additional insight or commentary on a trending story, or to help further build relationships with reporters covering a particular beat. If the reporter is interested in learning more, they will call you.
  • Press releases are used for a variety of reasons – to announce an event – (typically distributed ahead of time to get the media to attend), to announce a contract, deal, appointment, etc. It offers newsworthy information – covering the who, what, where, when, why and how. It can stand alone, but sometimes entices a reporter to call for additional information.

Each perfectly crafted pitch or release must contain all of the necessary information and spark attention for the reporter. In this article on BuzzSumo, reporters from TechCrunch, Mashable and the New York Times were interviewed about the number of emails they receive in a day and what they are looking for in a pitch from a PR professional. Below is a summary covering the main points:

  • Let the subject line convey the story
  • Ensure the information is relevant to the publication AND the reporter’s beat
  • The pitch must be concise and convey just enough information:
    • Get to the facts
    • Avoid hyperbole, buzzwords and rambling
    • Explain why your product or client is different from the competition

Both PR and marketing are important to help achieve organizational goals and objectives and can complement overall strategy.

Ann Marie Fortunate is an Account Supervisor at Franco. Follow her on Twitter at @AMFortunate.

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