30 May 2013

Are marketing and PR the same thing?

Here’s an interesting question posed to us recently: “Are marketing and PR the same thing?”

The answer is very definitely no, with a giant asterisk on it. The goals of marketing, PR, and sales are all very different.


The role of PR and of media in general (including social media) is to create audience, to create awareness, to get people to be aware that the store exists and can serve their needs. PR gets people to the front door.

The role of marketing is to get people to walk in the door, to exhibit intent, to become leads.

The goal of sales is to get people to walk up to the register and buy something.

Marketing cannot exist without media, without some kind of PR. You may not need a PR agency (depending on the size of your business and how much free time you have), but you do need earned media. You do need people talking about you. You do need people telling friends about you. Ideally you even get influential people or publishers to talk about you.

Here’s the asterisk: in many companies, marketing, PR, and communications are all lumped together under one department for organizational efficiency and scalability. As a result, people tend to conflate marketing and PR, and that’s not entirely bad. Both are responsible for communicating to prospective customers, and both are necessary to keep the sales process operating. A company with PR and no marketing is akin to having a store with no displays and just a cash register at the end of a hallway. A company with marketing and no PR is akin to having a store that no one knows about. You need both to be effective.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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Interesting that you didn't include advertising in the mix.

cspenn moderator

@shelholtz I lump advertising in with media, which PR shares a responsibility with advertising. Both earned and paid media have the same responsibility and end goal: get people to the front door.



Marketing is a very broad and often misused term. Many don't realize that marketing ranges from product and service development to pricing, distribution, merchandising, and marketing communications. Public relations, advertising, branding, sales management, customer service, and social media are all communication tools that make up the marketing communication mix. 

The problem is that most people mean "marketing communication" when they use the term "marketing."



In many companies even sales is lumped together in the mix. Post 911 P&G reduced all of the European marketing at least to to one task with two objectives; desperately act to maintain brand value and be on sale somewhere all of the time. It didn't work!


Yup, you are right that they are together in the same department in most companies. They all have different roles which may sometimes need to work in synergy too.

in my situation, I am working as the digital marketing role in the same Marcom/PR department as they need my existence to fill in the understanding of different Web channels and how they work so that they can perform their part of expertise.