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Companies need both marketing and public relations

Aren’t marketing and PR more or less interchangeable?

Many professionals are unclear about the differences between marketing and public relations (PR). Aren’t they more or less interchangeable? Not really… They are, however, complementary. To build a strong brand, you need both marketing and PR.

The primary difference between the two? Marketing is focused on selling your products/services to targeted customer groups, while PR seeks to build credible third party support for your company’s products/services.

PR and marketing require distinctive skill sets

PR specialists convince the ‘right people,’ e.g., reporters, editors, and bloggers, to write positive stories about a client’s goods or services. — How that has been achieved is highlighted in the obituary of PR revolutionary, Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud:

“Mr. Bernays was one of the first people to expand what had been a narrow concept of press agentry, or working to influence government policy, into a far more ambitious — and controversial — realm of seeking to influence and change public opinion and behavior.”

How did he accomplish this? He recruited opinion leaders like physicians, scientists and celebrities to promote products; created publicity stunts (e.g., women demonstrating for the ‘right to smoke’); hired focus groups to uncover attitudes and biases; and, was a pioneer in political propaganda.

Such PR strategies have often had a much greater impact than advertising. A recent study from 2014 by Nielsen concluded that PR is “almost 90% more effective than advertising: On average, expert content lifted familiarity 88 percent more than (advertising) content…”

Public relations and marketing

Three key differences between public relations and marketing

  • Marketing, aka, advertising is paid for communication, often infused with graphics and other visuals to persuade a general audience on the merits of a product or service. PR, by contrast, is ‘free’ (as in being quoted in your local newspaper), and based on third-party validation (think Steve Jobs’ amazing behind-the-scenes clout with the media, even since his death).
  • Marketing messages are strictly controlled, often visual in content, calculated to persuade a target demographic on the merits of a product or service. PR, by comparison, seeks to build trust via written content through credible ‘independent’ media. Final messaging is surrendered to third party sources of public information–with results that are not entirely predictable.
  • Marketing is the science and art of packaging products or services in a way that appeals to a mass audience. PR, on the other hand, goes beyond basic product/service information to create newsworthy publicity. If that effort is heavy-handed, it will backfire. If done with skill and finesse, it can result in exponential growth in company revenue.

Let’s discuss the advantages and challenges of Internet-based PR.

Utilize the power of social media.

Why you need online PR

Before the Internet, establishing third party support for PR initiatives required facet-to-face and paper-based written communication. But PR specialists were among the first to understand and utilize the power of social media. Soon the Internet became indispensable to building and maintaining a company’s desired public image.

A PR organization can’t project a desired public image for its clients without engaging the online community. Of course, with the ability to reach potentially millions of people instantaneously in two-way communication, comes the continual responsibility to respond immediately when a client’s goods or services are questioned online.

Internet-based PR advantages include

  • The Internet is not limited by constraints of space or time and so your information is available 24/7.
  • Internet PR is low cost and easy to implement. Websites, online newsletters, bulletin boards, and other forms of online communication can be updated instantaneously.
  • A coordinated, interactive (PR-client) online strategy increases your SEO, deepens relationships with your stakeholders, and establishes your brand.

Be aware that

  • Your prospective clients, potential business collaborators and employees all check you out online. Journalists, in particular, critically evaluate the information they find about you online before speaking with you.
  • Potential clients/customers decide whether they want to do business with you based on their impressions of your online brand.

PR needs the internet for research


PR professionals need the Internet to do a wide range of research. They need to keep tabs on social media communication (which functions as kind of online focus group), including Internet forums, blogs, and newsletters. In addition, universities, governmental agencies, and professional associations are sources of in-depth subject matter information.

Posting Blogs, Newsletters, and Distributing Online Reports and Newsletters
 Posting blogs, distributing online newsletters, and putting annual reports, quarterly financial reports and press release archives online for shareholders, employees and management saves time and money.

Distributing Information

Internally 
Bolstering internal communications via online employee newsletters and bulletin boards keeps your staff up to date on constantly changing information.

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