Marketing & SEO

Exploring the Differences Between PR and Marketing

Chris Norton 26 July, 2023

It’s easy to confuse PR and marketing. Their tactics may be similar, but that does not make them similar. PR and marketing aim to achieve different goals and reach different audiences. However, the obvious similarities shouldn’t be overlooked either. This is because the success of one will contribute to that of the other. So if you harness one power, you’ll be in a better position to master the other. In this article, you’ll learn what PR and marketing are and how they differ. Let’s get started!

What Is Public Relations (PR)?

Public relations refers to the strategies used to control how the public views a person, company, or brand. This is done by managing how information about a brand or person gets to the media. Every company’s PR department focuses on building mutually beneficial, positive relationships with media houses. This helps promote a positive brand image in the eyes of the general public. Here’s a list of the functions of PR:

  • Media Relations
  • Reputation management
  • Brand journalism
  • Event management and planning

To help boost its public image, a brand may engage in community activities. These activities may include supporting arts, sporting events, environmental activities, making donations, giving scholarships, and more.

Public relations is also about dealing with negative publicity. PR swoops in to do damage control anytime the company gets caught up in a negative story. So the company may outsource good PR services to give a positive spin to the narrative and rebuild any damaged reputation and customer trust.

What Is Marketing?

On the other hand, marketing refers to the activities a company engages in to promote buying and selling its products or services. Marketing campaigns target a specific audience or customer base to interest them in the brand’s offerings.

Marketing is anything a company does to gain and maintain its customers. There are several marketing strategies to employ, including:

Marketing focuses on showing how a brand can solve a problem that the audience and potential customers may have using the products or services on sale. Eventually, after an extended period of solving their problem, the audience will likely become brand loyalists and long-term customers. That said, it’s worth pointing out that PR and marketing mutually benefit. A good PR campaign makes life easier for your marketing team. Some techniques can also benefit both your PR and marketing efforts.

For example, PR teams distribute press releases all the time. Besides boosting your PR, the press releases also help with link building. This supports all the SEO initiatives your marketing team is doing. Let’s now take a closer look at how key differences between these two.

How PR Differs from Marketing

You can already identify the differences between marketing and PR from the definitions above. Let’s take a deeper look into these differences.

1. Objectives

PR and marketing differ in their objectives. PR seeks to ensure a brand’s positive reputation among customers and the general public. On the other hand, marketing seeks to sell products to the brand’s customer base. It aims to promote the brand’s products and services.

PR wants to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship with the brand’s stakeholders. These include the media, investors, customers, the public, and existing employees. Public relations, therefore, aims to build public trust in the company. Marketing efforts, meanwhile, focus on boosting company sales and growing the brand’s customer base. In this way, marketing aims to convert shoppers into buyers. It does this by launching marketing initiatives like advertising to help increase product purchases. Here’s an example of marketing objectives.

PR and marketing goals


When comparing PR and marketing content, you’ll see this marked difference in objectives. Here’s sample PR content from IKEA Denmark.

PR and marketing objectives


IKEA partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to create a biodiversity campaign to boost vegetative cover in the country. This shows the brand as an advocate of the environment.


Now check out its marketing email, which focuses on how much people can save. In other words, the ultimate goal of email is to get people to buy.

2. Target audience

The second difference between PR and marketing is this: their audiences. Marketing teams aim to reach only the brand’s prospects, leads, and customers. In contrast, PR services aim to reach the brand’s stakeholders, the media, and the public. Public relations can speak to different audiences at a time. This will depend on the current company’s needs. Marketing, meanwhile, only seeks to reach your brand’s customers and prospects.

Just to illustrate the difference, let’s say there’s a heatwave. Your PR department will develop a press release and other materials targeting the media and general public. These releases can discuss your company’s measures to help the public cope with the weather. Adamjee Life, for instance, gained positive PR by providing heatwave relief camps for the public.

Adamjee Life


Or if a company is facing backlash for its treatment of field employees amid the heatwave, as part of its PR efforts, it may decide to announce to the general public that its employees are given 30-minute water breaks. It may also explain it provides them with field kits that include water and towels.

In other words, the company’s concern in PR, in this case, is how to change the general public’s negative perception–whether they be customers or not–about the brand. However, marketing will only focus on speaking to customers and prospects about the company’s efforts to continue serving them effectively amid the heatwave. For marketing, it’s all about keeping the sales funnel open specifically for brand customers.

3. Channels

Although some platforms may overlap, PR and marketing use different channels to communicate their message to their target audiences. Public relations professionals use channels such as:

  1. Press releases – Any written or recorded official communication directed at news outlets. Brands use it to give the outlet special information like product launches and company news to reach the public.
  2. Press conferences – This is an organized interview given to the general media by a brand.
  3. Media Relations – This involves brands creating a mutually beneficial relationship with the media to increase their chances of media coverage.
  4. Partnerships with influencers are collaborations with people with large followings to create a buzz around a brand.
  5. Crisis management is applying strategies to help a company handle negative disruptions, unanticipated events, and threats to its reputation.
  6. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – This is where brands help improve their community’s well-being with environmental, social, and economic contributions.
  7. Social media – This is using social media channels to raise brand awareness about the positive contributions of the brand to society.

Earned media is the best way to get PR for your brand. People tend to trust what independent sources say about you rather than what you pay for. Meanwhile, marketing professionals use the following channels:

  1. Email marketing involves sending emails to subscribers and customers highlighting your products and services. Use an email finder to ensure the email addresses on your list are valid for effective email campaigns.
  2. Paid social uses sponsored marketing messages on social media platforms to reach your prospects or target audience.
  3. Influencer marketing – Brands collaborate with people with a large following for brand mentions and product exposure.
  4. Content marketing – This involves creating online images, blogs, and video marketing to stimulate interest in a brand’s products.
  5. SEO marketing – Using paid and unpaid efforts to gain product visibility and traffic from search engines.
  6. Events – Brands attend business events in their industry to display their products and services.

Your PR and marketing strategies should inform which channels you’ll use to achieve the intended goals. That way, you’ll zero in on the channels that’ll bring the best results for your company.

4. Measurement of Success

The final difference between PR and marketing is in the metric each measure. PR evaluates whether it succeeded in creating a positive buzz about the company. In contrast, marketing will analyze whether a product achieved its set sales goals.

Measurement of Success


Your PR department will report on the amount of positive press generated from a PR campaign. It will also consider the awards the brand won in industry events and the overall tone of the coverage your brand received.

Marketing will report whether the social media following grew after promoting a product online. It will also examine how many products were sold after a promotional campaign. Overall, marketing is ultimately concerned about the profit gained from promotional campaigns. PR measures brand reputation and public perception after a campaign is over.

PR and Marketing – In Closing

To wrap up, you’ve learned the definitions of PR and marketing and their differences. Public relations controls how the public views a person, company, or brand. On the other hand, marketing refers to the activities a company engages in to promote buying and selling its products or services.

In other words, PR and marketing differ regarding their objectives, target audience, channels, and metrics. Note, though, that marketing efforts cannot be effective despite obvious differences without good PR, and vice versa. In other words, if you want your business to succeed, you must ensure you have both PR and marketing teams and strategies. Now that you understand what PR and marketing are, hopefully, you can better harness their power for your business. Good luck!

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Tags: marketing marketing strategy online marketing
Author: Chris Norton
By Chris Norton, Founder of award-winning B2B specialist PR agency Prohibition, social media podcaster, former University lecturer, author of “Share This Too” and his social media training blog which is listed in the UK's top 10 PR and social media strategy blogs. For tons of digital PR tips, you can follow Chris here @chris_norton.