Public relations and marketing have a lot in common. They are both ways to get a message across to an audience, and while they may share some similarities – there are major differences in the approach that they take to accomplish that goal.

The two practices are often confused, but it’s important for savvy business executives and organization leaders to grasp these differences so that they know when to apply both for optimal results.

Here are some of the distinctions between
marketing/advertising and PR.

1.) Paid Media vs. Earned Media

Marketing is done by purchasing ad-space on a platform, media outlet or any place available to present a message to the public. This could be anything from a billboard, to a radio jingle, to display ads on Facebook.

Typically, marketers will use tools to identify a desired demo and target them (sometimes to a scary degree). Next, they create different types of ads and “split-test” them to see which ones produce the overall highest conversion rate.

This is called “paid media” because it has been purchased up-front and the public is fully aware that they are being presented an advertisement.

PR, however, is a different communications strategy and produces what is called “earned media.” In this process, a PR team works to understand a business, its product/service, and how they would like to be perceived by the public. Then, they flesh out a story or image that they would like to share with the audience.

Next, they conduct outreach to media publications trusted by their audience and garner authentic coverage for the client. The PR team will present information in such a way that shines a positive light on a client or tries to control the story.

2.) Targeting versus Influence

Choosing whether to opt for a marketing or public relations campaign can depend on your object. Marketing can be useful to place highly targeted ads in front of an audience, but its transparent nature can diminish the level of trust that audiences feel toward the ad.

Whereas, a public relations strategy will relay a message through the content itself – providing a layer of social-proof from a trusted and independent media publication. When done correctly, this can be far more convincing and influential on the target audience because you’re sharing a story, as opposed to a product.

Additionally, PR usually has a longer shelf-life in the public sphere. An article in a major newspaper or a segment on a popular TV show will most often find its way to the outlet’s digital platforms where it will remain and continue to convey its intended message.

With marketing, once the ad-campaign is finished and the budget has reached its limit – the placement of ads is finished and will require another campaign to continue. In this sense, advertising can be very expensive…especially as most advertising requires repetition to be very effective.

3. Extended Services

Often times, a PR firm will also offer communications services outside of media outreach. In the business world, there are countless projects that require expertise or manpower that a company might not have. This is where they will turn to a PR firm to help.

A client might need help creating a presentation for potential investors or help with writing a speech for an important summit. A lot of organizations or high-profile individuals require help in planning and coordinating events – especially if there is a media component involved. PR firms also provide media coaching for clients in times of crisis and even work to secure personal meetings with government officials.

If a company or organization needs help with any type of project that requires communications expertise – consider speaking with a PR firm to see if they can help.

Marketing agencies also provide additional services outside of creating and managing ad-campaigns. Some marketing agencies can help businesses determine their target audience by conducting market research. They can also perform market research to gauge interest in a new product idea for a specific demographics.

When used appropriately, both PR and marketing firms can be tremendous assets to any business, brand or organization.

Hopefully this cleared up some of the different functions and roles that marketing, and PR firms play and can help you determine the best path forward to accomplish your goals.