The first time I was ever asked “what’s the difference between marketing & PR?”, I didn’t quite know how to answer it. Certainly there were the definitions put forward at uni and from the various industry bodies – but then (and I’d profer, even now) there was some academic argy bargy going on.

So I set about coming up with my own working explanation – that was short, to the point and that those not in the industry had a hope in hades of understanding (not something academics are well known for).

In short;

Marketing leads to a transaction (or a sale from a member of the organisation/product/service’s target market)

Public Relations leads to an interaction (designed to build trust or open/continue a conversation with a member of the organisation/product/service’s target audience)

If you combine the two, you get MPR – an interaction that ultimately leads to a transaction.

However the true value of PR is not all about building sales, nor is it about getting media coverage/publicity. Sometimes it’s just as important to stay less attainable and/or out of the media (and yes, there is such a thing as bad publicity).

Great PR and marketing people are not necessarily interchangeable. Marketing is often about data/research, PR less so.

The best marketers aren’t just about stuff, they’re about strategy – watching and listening to the marketplace in order to determine whether or not product/service A is going to work, if it needs tweaks, how to best position it and then they work to get it out there.

Great PRs are about building relationships with stakeholders – a much broader subset of people who may or may not ultimately buy from you – but who could be extremely influential to those who can. Stakeholders might be purchasing gatekeepers (mums, Drs, hospitals or governments) or they might be activists who dislike how your organisation does something and are determined to have it stopped at a local, industry or even government level or just about anyone else in the mix.

Too often people (and that includes some industry folks) think both are just about marketing materials, advertising or publicity (which is mainly one way communication). That seriously minimises the impact marketers and PRs can make to your business, organisation, product or service.

Ultimately, great marketers launch great products/services, in the right place, at the right price, to the right people using the right mediums and great PRs nuture, defend and protect them.

Hope that helps. Let me know your thoughts on the difference between marketing and PR.


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