What’s the difference between PR and marketing?


PR and marketing? Same difference? 

One of the biggest challenges faced by communications teams everywhere is education. It can be a tough gig getting rest of the company excited about your PR and marketing activity. Especially when they might not understand the subtle differences between the two.

So what is the difference – if any – between PR and marketing? Let’s go right back to basics to take a closer look.


What’s the definition of PR? 

As we’ve mentioned before, PR is short for public relations. It’s all about managing your relationship with the public, and influencing other people’s opinions.

The PRCA and CIPR – two professional bodies for PR people – both have similar definitions for public relations. Here’s what the PRCA has to say about PR:

“Public Relations, or ‘PR’, is all about the way organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image.

The way an organisation is represented in the media has a huge impact on how people perceive it. PR professionals try to influence the media to represent their organisation positively and communicate key messages.”

And this is how the CIPR define public relations:

“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”

Both definitions are heavily concerned with the idea of ‘reputation’.

While reputation may not be a measurable KPI, it can make a real impact on a business’s future. According to new research by Moz, businesses risk losing 22% of their custom when potential clients find a negative article on the first page of search results. Forbes says “That number increases to 44% lost business with two negative articles, and 59% with three negative articles.”

While your PR team can’t work magic, they can help shape your brand’s public reputation, and prevent things like that from happening. In some cases, they can even mitigate damage after the fact to help keep your reputation squeaky clean.


What’s the definition of marketing?

The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines marketing as “The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”

The American Marketing Association has a similar definition. According to their experts:

“Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”


What do PR and marketing have in common? 

No, this isn’t a trick question or a joke. There is some crossover between the two disciplines.

Both come under the big business umbrella of communications. Marketing is about communicating with your customers and being profitable. PR is about communicating with everyone else.

Though they may be separate disciplines, both marketing and PR work better together and complement each other. For example, blogging regularly and achieving relevant PR content makes life much easier for your social media team. It’s much more achievable to use social media to drive traffic to your site when you have content there worth sharing!

Likewise, marketing can support PR by making your business stand out should prospects research your brand following PR coverage. Gaining coverage in your target media sectors is much less valuable if you’re disappearing off the bottom of page 5 – those leads will never convert!

On a more practical level, PR professionals will often have some marketing experience and vice versa. In smaller teams, the same person may even fill both roles. That’s by no means a bad thing. Integrated comms with lots of crossover and consistently aligned messaging is absolutely best practice.


What are the differences between PR and marketing? 

While both are vital parts of a business’s communications strategy, there are differences between PR and marketing.

Looking back at our two definitions of marketing listed above, both allude to profitability. If your marketing activity isn’t profitable, something’s gone wrong. Most marketers are a little obsessed with analytics, data, KPIs, and ROI: they want to know that everything they do is valuable to the business and will ultimately increase sales.

PR, on the other hand, is not so closely linked to sales. There are many reasons why a business might choose to do PR, such as to raise investment or support recruitment. However, PR is not usually the ‘go to’ activity to drive sales. Of course, that’s not to say it can’t help. While maintaining a positive reputation may not directly be a sales goal, customers are unlikely to buy from your business if you’re public enemy number one.

PR is better suited to support long-term, less tangible goals. For example, a brand could greatly increase their sales in a short period of time. However, to become the market leader or household name, that takes consistent and maintained effort. But in the long run, it will be worth it!


So PR and marketing are similar but different. Neither is more of less important, it just depends on what you want to achieve. Using them together, however, is when the magic really happens…


Would you like Luminous to help you with a PR campaign? Get in touch, or connect with the team on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.


Related blog articles
contact us

Let’s discuss making your product or business launch really take off

Or you can fill in the form below to start a conversation.

Give us a call on
+44 (0) 20 3858 7107
or email hello@luminouspr.com

Give us a call on +44 (0) 20 3858 7107
or email hello@luminouspr.com