The Difference Between Marketing and Public Relations


1. the act of buying or selling in a market.2. the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing, and selling.

Public Relations:

1. the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.

2. the art, technique, or profession of promoting such goodwill.

Public relations is a discipline that is both ever present and grossly misrepresented. In discussions with friends, family, prospects, and even vendors and clients in some cases, there is a great deal of confusion about what public relations is and where PR fits in the marketing spectrum.

First of all, let’s establish that PR is not a facet of marketing. As defined (see above), marketing is the act of transferring goods or service to a consumer, usually referring to the promotional and advertising activities. Public relations, on the other hand, is a management function for an organization that involves creating goodwill between an organization and its various publics.

I joined Broadreach two years ago and was blown away by the sheer scope of what real public relations is. I’d been with a local design and advertising shop previously and was handed the “public relations” duties based on my journalism degree. What passed for PR in that role was primarily writing press releases, driven entirely by marketing objectives and never particularly effective for the client’s underlying goals.

By contrast, working with a firm that delivers strategic communications for its clients, the discipline of public relations takes on an entirely new role. The difference is in the idea that PR is about managing and promoting a two-way, mutually beneficial communication between a brand and all of its publics – this definitely includes that brands’ consumers, but just as importantly deals with communicating with employees, investors, prospects, centers of influence and myriad others.

As a result, PR practitioners at their best and highest value are working with C-suite management on questions of strategic direction with internal communications, employee relations, growth strategies, product development, governmental and investor relations, et al.

Over the past four years or so, the buzz terms in the marketing world have gone from “social media marketing” to “inbound marketing” to “content marketing” to “brand journalism” most recently. All of which heavily borrow select aspects of PR, packaged under a new name. But the evolution points to a thirst for more authentic communication with a brand’s audiences, an awareness of both internal and external audiences, and a need for an integrated communications approach that aligns with business objectives.

A recent study showed that many CEOs see the need for PR but that few can define its value. In light of this fact, it’s crucial for those of us in the field to understand that PR is more than event planning and media relations (though those are admittedly fun) and our clients deserve a more complex, nuanced communications discipline where our activities include research, coalition building, public outreach, business objectives and thoughtful, expert advice. 

— by Michael Geneseo, Broadreach Account Executive