Two Worlds Coming Together: The Marriage Of PR & Marketing

How can marketing and PR work together and learn from each other?

By Bas van den Beld

Create Awareness

Two Worlds Coming Together: The Marriage Of PR & Marketing
One of the big challenges of a modern-day CMO is to break down walls between the different silos inside the company and make marketing people work with sales and PR teams. But how? They all seem to be very fond of their own little territory. And they are all “so different.” Or are they? Let’s look at how marketing and PR can work together and learn from each other.

Aren’t PR And Marketing The Same Thing?

It’s a question you hear a lot: Aren’t public relations and marketing the same thing? Actually, they aren’t, but the confusion is understandable. After all, take a look at the definitions:

  • Marketing: the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.
  • Public relations (PR): the practice of managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization) and the public.

If you work and think like many organizations do and your mindset is “I have a good product, I want to tell the world,” then, yes, they seem the same. In that case, after all, the goal is the same: spreading a message.

But if you have this way of thinking, it also means you are only doing part of what marketing and PR should be doing.

So how are they different?

In the past, the difference between marketing and PR has been quite clear, but these days the lines are blurring a bit. However, you can say these elements are defining the difference between the two:

Advertising vs. “Free” Publicity

Traditionally marketing has always been put on the advertising side: you pay for marketing, whereas PR is free. This means if you buy a big ad in a magazine, it’s marketing, but if you get your CEO to be interviewed for the same magazine, it is PR.

Goals: Direct Value vs. Brand Value

Marketing has a direct line with sales. When a marketing campaign is started, there are clear goals: In the end, we want to sell more. Even when it is not about direct selling, the goals are clear: We want downloads, we want visits or we want clicks.

PR, on the other hand, is much more vague. It’s about brand value. PR aims to make sure that the association you have with a brand is right.

The fact that George Clooney is part of the Nespresso campaigns in Europe is a clear PR strategy: It shows the brand and it will make people remember the brand. We will, however, not buy one more cup of Nespresso coffee because George Clooney is there, but we will like the brand a bit more.

Controlling The Message: Get It Out There vs. Full Control

A big difference between marketing and PR is how we handle messaging.

Marketers want to get a message out there and let it “ride,” let it go viral and get input back from the audience.

PR professionals, on the other hand, generally want to have more control. The word “spin” comes to mind. PR pros wants to craft a message and get that exact message placed with the exact right people, so the audience will be influenced by it.

Measurement: Business ROI vs. No ROI

When it comes to the outcome of campaigns, Marketing campaigns are looked at very differently than PR campaigns.

Marketing is generally seen as business, which means it has direct goals in measurements and there needs to be an ROI: i.e., new customers coming in.

When it comes to PR, however, the measurement is much more difficult and thus, in most cases, they fail to put an ROI on the campaigns simply because they can’t measure it properly. A change in perception, after all, isn’t something you can put in numbers.

Where PR And Marketing Come Together: The Impact Of Digital

Some say PR is part of marketing, but I wouldn’t suggest saying that to a PR person. They probably won’t like you for it.

Digital has changed how PR and marketing are defined quite a bit, but mostly in “who is doing what.” Outreach used to be a PR job, but now marketers do outreach as well: It started off with the search marketers trying to get links and it evolved into guest posting and other related strategies that are actually a PR job, but are now mostly done by marketers.

In other words, PR and marketing are related and they can work together and learn from each other.

What Can PR Learn From Marketing?

The rapidly changing digital landscape seems to be easier to get a grip on for marketers than for PR professionals. This has to do with data. Where the PR professional’s job was to get a message to a journalist, for example, who would then make sure it was “shown” to many at once, nowadays social media has taken a big part of the role of the journalist, which, in turn, means that the role of the PR professional changes.

For marketers, it seems to be more natural to work with “audiences” because they naturally are more working with data. Figuring out what an audience actually “wants” can be done using data, and marketers are more used to that. But it’s the opposite approach: where PR professionals used to think from the “message” perspective, they now need to think from the “audience” perspective: what do they want to hear instead of what do I want them to hear?

This is where marketers can help the PR department. Measure, then share. Give information about what is happening and what the audience wants, based on the marketers’ experiences and measurements.

What Can Marketing Learn From PR?

One of the “hot terms” used in marketing these days is “storytelling.” We tell the story of our company, we try and make a story of our product and we try to involve the audience in storytelling.

Storytelling might be a “new” word in marketing, but it actually has been done by PR professionals for ages. When Edward Bernays introduced “PR” as propaganda back in the early 20th century, he used a lot of storytelling to give people the “feeling” they needed to do something.

Take one of his most famous campaigns, for example, in which he got many women to smoke in public. Previously, women were arrested when smoking in public, but he staged a “story” in which a group of models lit Lucky Strike cigarettes during the Easter parade in New York. He made sure the cigarettes were seen as “torches of freedom,” creating a story of rebellion instead of an advertising campaign.

This type of storytelling is in a PR professional’s DNA. They know exactly how to tell the story of a brand or a product. Marketers should listen to PR professionals on this. And you can see this happening with, for example, e-mail subscribe buttons on websites changing from “click here” to “join a group of experts.” The entry of psychology in marketing can be (and is) fueled by PR.

Marketers were used to “selling type” content, or content with a direct goal. Now, content, with the rise of content marketing, is much more indirect.

Working together

Marketing and PR definitely aren’t the same. They do, however, serve a similar goal. That means working together will make both parties much stronger. It will increase the effectiveness of campaigns with the data of the marketer and it will increase the persuasive power of the campaigns with the knowledge and tactics of a PR pro.

And we are seeing the two come together without maybe even realizing it. Content marketing is a good example with the stories that are told there. Also think about influence marketing — how is that not a great example of two worlds coming together? And think about Social Media in general. This is where the measurement can come together, because now we can measure change in perception based on how people behave on Social Media.

PR and marketing are slowly growing together. That doesn’t mean they are the same, but they do make each other stronger.

The key is that marketers and PR people start working on campaigns and projects together, from the start. The silos really need to be broken down. If marketers do what they do best and PR professionals do what they do best, but they don’t communicate quickly enough, most things will be less effective. If, however, they work together from the start, customer outreach will skyrocket.

Do you see any other ways marketing and PR professionals can work together and/or learn from each other?