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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Posted on May 30, 2013 in Marketing, Public Relations

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.
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