Are marketing and PR the same thing? - SHIFT Communications PR Agency - Boston | New York | San Francisco | Austin

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 has been featured as a recognized authority in many books, publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times, BusinessWeek and US News & World Report, and television networks such as PBS, CNN, CNBC, Fox News, and ABC News for his leadership in new media and marketing. In 2012 and again in 2013, Forbes Magazine recognized him as one of the top 50 most influential people in social media and digital marketing; Marketo Corporation named him a Marketing Illuminator, and PR News nominated him as Social Media Person of the Year. Mr. Penn is the Vice President of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications, a public relations firm, as well as co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp New Media Community Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. He is an adjunct professor of Internet marketing and the lead subject matter expert and professor of Advanced Social Media at the University of San Francisco. He’s the author of the best-selling book Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer.

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



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.

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