What’s the difference between public relations and marketing?
Looking up definitions online doesn’t get you very far. Here’s some from BlogHer:
- Marketing: The process of promoting, selling or distributing a product or service; the work of moving goods from producer to purchaser
- Public Relations: Encouraging public understanding and goodwill towards a particular company and its products or services
To make things more complicated, what do the major professional organizations have to say?
- According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), PR is defined as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
- On the other hand, marketing is defined by the AMA 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.”
So is there really that much difference between these two professions? What can a writer at a digital marketing agency learn from the world of public relations, anyway?
These questions were on my mind earlier this month when I attended “DC’s PR Scene: What’s Hot & What’s Not in 2016” with the PRSA-NCC. It was a great event for professionals to learn and connect. Phil Rabin and Paul Duning serve as editor and publisher of Capitol Communicator, a web-based media outlet and resource for communicators; over lunch they shared their expert insights about what lies ahead for the local public relations industry this coming year.
Here are my main takeaways from their excellent talk:
Public relations and marketing in today’s digital world are converging into an overall focus on communications. The hard and fast line between industries is blurring. Much of what we do as a marketing agency is indeed to build “mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Marketing today is focused around building real connections, not just the hard sell any more.
Content = the Foundation of Communications
This is true whether you come from a public relations or marketing background. Storytelling, especially in social media, is an increasingly important way of engaging audiences and potential customers. Video, too, makes that immediate, emotional engagement—it’s one of the hottest content marketing trends and a crucial tool for getting out that all-important story.
On the other hand, everyone’s learning (sometimes the hard way) that ROI is what ultimately matters. Clients want to know the hard numbers and see that they’re getting a good return on their investment. And, in this age of analytics, it’s getting easier and easier to see those numbers.
Finally, in another interesting trend for the coming year, large public relations agencies are beginning to catch on to what BlueTreeDigital has known for some time: that the big, physical offices in different cities may not be the best approach in our digital, results-oriented times. Being nimble is vital. The power of the virtual team—and the virtual agency—may be coming into its own as project-based work becomes more important.
So public relations and marketing are converging into an overall world of communications. Content that relies on compelling stories is at the heart of it, especially video content. Measurable results matter in this rapidly changing landscape—and that means virtual agencies might find themselves with a leg up.
It turns out marketing and public relations have a lot to learn from each other, after all.