Right away I am going to lay it out there to say that these two practices are not the same and the line is not blurring. Marketing and public relations are not becoming one discipline and I am going to tell you why.
Marketing is not Public Relations
According to the American Marketing Association, Marketing is defined as “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.” Your strategies and objectives in marketing are ideally supposed to lead to a sale of something that has “value for customers”. Public relations is “the art or science of establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the public, ” according to Yahoo. I prefer to say it like this: pr is about getting the word out through appropriate messaging across many channels. First, you create the story or message you want to broadcast, and then, via traditional and digital media, you propagate the information.
It is clear that by definition these two are not the same in terms of their intentions and outcomes. It is also easy to see why people get confused. But the issue is not about either discipline. It is about the tools we use to do the job.
No Digital PR?
A bunch of years ago everything became digital and digital marketing was born. Was there an equivalent in the public relations world? No digital pr? This is where the problem started when marketers began thinking they were pr experts and vice versa. In actuality, the functions of marketing and public relations are what they have always been, with the exception that we all need to know how to function effectively in a digital world.
We need to know how to tweet, post, use hashtags, analyze our efforts, and create opportunities to build relationships. The difference between marketing and pr here is that marketing wants to bring in a paying customer, whereas public relations is trying to create an image, impression, or relationship. When pr has built the audience and forged the relationships then marketing comes in for the kill to get that product sold. Public relations is a craft about words and pictures that tell a story about a brand. Marketing wants you to buy that brand, go to that concert, rent that hotel room, etc.
Company/Individual = Product
Recently I came across an article that substantiates my point: In it, the writer, a pr person, was discussing the travel industry and rental properties. She says there is more crossover between marketing and pr, but there is a very good reason why it looks that way. She says, “as technology has connected not only us much more deeply with each department’s previously distinct audiences but also those audiences with each other, the line between marketing and PR has blurred. This is especially true in the vacation rental industry where the company is the product when you are recruiting new owners to your program.”
This does not mean that the line has blurred. This is a result straight from the internet that has to do with “celebrity”. It applies to artists, authors, musicians, and individually branded businesses. Our society has a culture where your level of celebrity or fame equals the amount of influence you have. When the person or entity behind the product is the public image, success becomes dependent upon that person’s relationship with an audience. This is how it works: PR shapes the brand and image using messaging and imaging and then marketing joins in with advertising and direct mail to encourage a sale. Did I say it already? Marketing and pr are not the same.
What is absolutely true is that it has become even more important for marketing and pr to work together. The problem is sometimes there is a turf war between the two. Everyone wants to use the fun tools and tricks available in the digital marketing toolbox. Fine. There is more than enough work to go around. We need to understand the differences in what we do so that we can work effectively to promote our people and products. They say it takes a village, you know.