Spotting the difference: PR versus marketing

Magnifying glass


In the first instalment of our spotting the difference series, we took a look at PR versus publicity. Now we’re putting PR and marketing under the microscope so you can make informed choice in your business promotions!

PR versus marketing – some will indeed paint these two forms of communication as being at opponents inside the business ring. Used together, these two elements can really help boost your business overall. The trick is knowing the difference between the two and what scenario suits what tactic.

“PR can be one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal.” Tweet: #PR can be one of the most powerful tools in your #marketing arsenal. via @phoebe_netto


PR in the spotlight

We took a longer look at PR when we compared PR with publicity. As a brief refresher, PR is your reputation builder and protector. PR helps keep you front-of-mind position with your intended audience so that you can grow and enhance your customer relationship, and appeal to potential customers.

PR also helps in the times when the public may have reason to be concerned with your products or practises to educate with information and allay fears. It’s about listening to the organisation’s wider audience and fostering an ongoing relationship and story that garners consumer trust.


PR versus marketing

Marketing is any activity a business undertakes to promote itself and encourage sales of its products and/or services. This includes building awareness, making it easy for customers to make transactions, to encouraging referrals and repeat business.

PR is a specific area of marketing that aims to raise the public’s awareness and trust of a business through positive coverage but may have a less direct link to sales. PR is about longevity in the relationship between business and customer, not just for the current sales cycle or promotion.


You can spot the earmarks of great PR as it fulfils many marketing goals including:

  • Generating awareness
  • Communicating key messages about the organisation in question
  • Building a strategic brand and
  • A credible, trustworthy, expert and approachable image.


PR will often come out of your marketing budget as a marketing function. It should work in tandem with other proactive marketing activities.

As previously mentioned, PR can also be used in a reactive way, such as to reduce brand damage and as such, may be part of a risk management strategy rather than marketing.

We can examine that in detail with the following business example for imaginary company Wally Paper.

Example: Wallpaper design company Wally Paper has a new pattern to debut. Wally Paper’s marketing department decides to invite interior designers and media to a launch party to promote the new design. It also emails its database to let previous customers know of its new product.

The marketing department wants to promote the new design every way possible. The email blast is straight marketing—‘we just wanted to let you know you can buy this from us’—whereas the launch party is a PR manoeuvre that is designed to build Wally Paper’s relationship with its stakeholders in a meaningful manner.

At the same time, the PR approach included giving the media the information they may need to publish an article about the launch. Making it as easy as possible for the media to do its job by providing a newsworthy story about Wally Paper’s new range is part of the magic of PR. Because the PR agent has helped the media discover the interesting hook for their readers, when Wally Paper’s target market read the interior design publications, blogs and sites that interest them they would see Wally Paper in there.

And because the PR people were great at their jobs, when they supplied high resolution images and quotes along with product and company information to the journalist, they made sure it presented the product and brand in the right light. This was done in such a way that the media included some of this in their articles.


How do marketing and PR come together in the end?

Marketing is more directly related to specific products or services where as PR tends to include reinforcement of positive perceptions of the business as well.


Using our Wally Paper example again:

Those attending the party would think: “Isn’t it nice of Wally Paper to invite us to this party? This is why I like dealing with them.”

The readers of media outlets and blogs that reported on the launch would think: “This media outlet that I believe knows the industry and my interest areas well, chose to include Wally Paper – they must be good.”

This hand-in-glove relationship between marketing and PR is special. It acts to create campaigns geared towards generating sales for the company (marketing) while creating the consumer awareness and positive perception (PR) required taking the campaign to the next level.


In our final instalment of ‘in the spotlight’, we’re examining the relationship between advertising and PR. Stay tuned…


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