• Why marketing is not the same as public relations

    It's something most communication specialists will face at some stage in their career: people not understanding what exactly differentiates your role from the marketing officer's. Or, in some cases, if you work as corporate communications manager of sorts, the lines may become blurred between the two, making it seemingly difficult to distinguish public relations and marketing professionals.

    So, let's clear the conundrum up once and for all by explaining the key differences.

    The terminology highlights the fundamental differences of approaching the public and consumers.

    What are the exact definitions?

    The definition of public relations, according to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), is the "strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics."

    Conversely, the American Marketing Association (AMA) defines the Marketing profession 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."

    Simply looking at the terminology highlights the fundamental differences of approaching the public and consumers. Disseminating this, there are numerous, distinct differentiating characteristics:

    1. Paid vs free

    On the most basic level, marketing pays for its product to be distributed and advertised and public relations focus on free publicity. However, marketing can use free platforms to drive viral posts and PR can use paid platforms to promote their message.

    2. Buzz words vs no-nonsense

    In marketing, professionals openly try to motivate consumers to buy their product. Hype-words and strong statements aimed to persuade an individual are second-nature to marketers. Communication specialists working in PR, on the other hand, work in a no-frills news format.

    The two professions have distinctly different tones.The two professions have distinctly different tones.

    3. Control vs no control

    The key difference here is that due to the money involved in marketing campaigns, there is much more creative control over what goes into a product and ad. With public relations, there is no such guarantee that the information distributed will get media coverage, and if it does, for how long.

    4. Internal vs external contacts

    Regarding client contacts, marketing agencies don't tend to have as close relationships with their clientele, with graphic designers or copywriters potentially not meeting their customer base at all.

    Contradictory to this approach, PR professionals are not only reliant on building strong relationships with a wide variety of contacts, but are likely have to give a statement or interview as company spokesperson when a crisis unfolds. Community relations, for example, is reliant on active involvement to show an organisation's commitment to its stakeholders.

    While there are many more factors one could analyse to showcase the differences between the two professions, the above points highlight some key considerations. In its essence, to excel at their job, any good communication specialist needs to understand the critical differences between approaching communication from a marketing or PR viewpoint.

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