What Is the Difference Between Public Relations and Marketing?

What Is the Difference Between Public Relations and Marketing?


It is a strange reality that even people in the industry are sometimes unaware of the exact difference between public relations and marketing. While the difference between public relations and marketing used to be more distinct, as brands are increasingly using social media and other digital marketing practices, the line between public relations and marketing is becoming less clear. This blurred line becomes even less clear when it comes to small and medium-sized organizations.

If you find yourself wondering what the difference between public relations and marketing is, read on to find out the answer.

Defining Public Relations and Marketing

The simplest way of outlining the difference between public relations and marketing is to outline each. Public relations is defined as the professional maintenance of a company, organization or famous person’s public image. Marketing is the action of promoting and selling products or services.

As the definitions show, marketing was traditionally focused on selling a specific product or service, whereas public relations was set on curating a positive image on a much broader, brand level.

However, as Eleven Marketing & Communications explains, with practices like educational and sustainable marketing, companies are increasingly looking to use marketing to instill a specific brand identity, not to simply sell one product. As marketing encroaches ever further on the territory of public relations, the question becomes: are the two processes still distinct, or even necessary in the modern business environment?

What Are the Daily Differences?

While the difference between public relations and marketing might not be all that clear, the differences in terms of practices are made more clear when comparing the daily duties.

The day-to-day roles of a public relations professional can include:

  • Writing press releases
  • Pitching content to the media
  • Building relationships with the media
  • Managing crisis
  • Pitching and creating stories
  • Building a brand’s identity

Whereas, the daily role of a marketer might include:

  • Researching target audiences
  • Conducting industry research
  • Creating marketing strategies for new products
  • Drafting content for new product launches
  • Creating conversion funnels

Marketing usually involves defined metrics of success, such as meeting or exceeding sales goals, return on investment for marketing spend or increasing a brand’s social media following. The success of public relations can be more difficult to define, but it can include, a buzz of positive press, an increase in interest in a brand and industry awards.

You Can’t Have One Without the Other

Marketing and public relations have more overlaps today than ever before. While they remain two distinct practices, it is true to say that you simply cannot have either marketing or public relations without the other. No matter how authentic and credible your brand image might be, if your product marketing does not extend this image, both will suffer. At the same time, if your product marketing is of the highest quality, but your public relations are not up to muster, then you will never be able to gain all the possible returns.