Public relations (PR) and marketing are not interchangeable terms.

The difference between them may be obvious to a communications specialist, but it’s not so obvious to a layman or a complete beginner in this field.

And no one can blame them. Understanding the difference between PR and marketing is not the easiest thing in the world, especially now that the line between the two has become blurred.

With the arrival of new technologies, these two functions have become more complex than ever.

Actually, there are a few key differences between PR and marketing we would like to highlight. Read on and you’ll never confuse these two terms again.


Traditional definitions

Traditionally, PR refers to maintaining a positive public image of a company, organization, or person.

On the other hand, marketing is defined as promoting and selling products or services, doing market research, and advertising those products or services.

In other words, marketing activities are all about promoting and selling a product, while the role of PR is maintaining a company’s good reputation.


Target audience

PR and marketing have a different target audience. In fact, their target audience is one of the basic differences between PR and marketing in the traditional sense. 

The purpose of public relations is building and maintaining good relationships with those who have an interest in the brand.

PR has a wider audience that includes clients, suppliers, investors, media, shareholders, employees, and other people who collectively support the company’s objectives.

Marketing, on the other hand, targets the clients. The role of the marketing team is reaching existing and potential clients. 

Target audience
PR has a broader target audience than marketing.



As we mentioned earlier, PR generally deals with the reputation of the company. It covers reputation management by creating favourable media coverage and communication with the stakeholders.

Marketing, however, is focused on promotional activities, direct marketing and advertising with the aim of returning direct sales.



The goals of PR and marketing also differ. PR focuses on selling the brand or company, not a specific product or service. The goals marketing professionals want to achieve revolve around selling a product or service to the customer.

That is why their job is to reach customers and convince them to take some kind of sales-related action.

Basically, what PR is trying to achieve is to build a positive reputation for the company through an effective PR tactic. Meanwhile, marketing strives to generate direct revenue.



The longevity of PR and marketing benefits differ, too. On the one hand, we can say that marketing is a relatively short-term endeavour with instant, yet short-lived results.

On the other, the benefits of successful PR can be enjoyed over a longer period.

Unlike a marketing campaign, a PR program could be regarded as a long-term investment. 


Business ROI

Another difference between PR and marketing has to do with business ROI. Marketing is a business investment.

Promotional activities directed toward new customers and paid branding represent the ROI. By contrast, PR could be described as free exposure with the aim of improving a company’s image and its reliability.

Measuring ROI for PR consulting is often more complicated than it is for marketing. That’s because demonstrating a change in people’s opinions, points of view or beliefs are more difficult. 


Credibility of messages

PR delivers messages through conference speakers, respectable bloggers, articles, and similar channels, as they are considered more reliable compared to messages conveyed through advertising.

The consumer typically recognizes a company’s attempt to boost sales through marketing. The opinion of someone who is regarded as an expert in the field can be much more effective.

Articles signed by a renowned journalist or some industry expert’s presentations can reach the consumer more easily and are typically received as a trustworthy source. 


Digital PR and digital marketing

Digital PR is still about relationship management, with an emphasis on social media channels.

Marketing in the digital world is similar to marketing in a traditional sense. It refers to activities that drive instant action on the customer’s side.

Since promotional marketing on social media can actually affect a brand negatively, social media is lately being categorized under the PR function. 

Social media apps on a screen.
The role of social media is important in both PR and marketing. 


PR professionals vs. marketing professionals – What is their job?

A PR professional

  1. Writes press releases about new products/projects; 
  2. Seeks and arranges speaking opportunities for the company’s executives at industry events;
  3. Manages and updates corporate messaging;
  4. Works on building relationships with the media and reputable influencers;
  5. Talks to the press about a crisis the company is going through.


A marketing professional

  1. Drafts a newsletter for the clients;
  2. Conducts industry and client research in order to prepare successful advertising campaigns;
  3. Works on advertising campaigns for new products;
  4. Takes care of advertising on different media, such as TV, radio, internet;
  5. Works on supporting promotional materials, such as brochures, website landing pages, etc.


The relation between PR and marketing – you can’t separate the two

Clarifying the distinctive roles of marketing and PR has multiple benefits. That said, it’s important to understand that PR and marketing strongly rely on each other.

A business can succeed only if the two departments work well combined. One cannot do marketing without a little PR and vice versa.

They may not have the exact same end goals, but selling products or services and making people appreciate a brand go hand in hand.

A company’s reputation is likely to be bad if its products are bad. Similarly, no matter how good your products are, you are not going to sell them unless people like your brand and connect with it.

The company behind is a great example of how you can combine these two intertwined functions. 

Finally, while executives should gain a deeper understanding of the differences as well as similarities between PR and marketing, their most important task is identifying the most efficient tools for meeting their business objectives in order to create the most effective communication strategy.

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