PR vs Marketing: Top Main Differences Explained

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11 mins

This article breaks down PR and marketing, clarifying their roles and how they work together to amplify your brand's success.


Reviewed by Chloe Bidle

Creative social media strategist, driving engagement and innovation.

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  1. Marketing vs PR: A Quick Intro
  2. What is the Difference Between PR and Marketing?
    1. Approach
    2. Tactics
    3. Target Audience
    4. Goals
    5. Metrics You Track
    6. Toolkit
    7. Time Frame
  3. Do Marketing and PR Work Together?
  4. What Comes First Marketing or PR?
  5. How to Use PR and Marketing?
  6. Is PR Under Marketing?
  7. Wrapping Up
  8. Frequently Asked Questions
    1. How do the typical job roles and responsibilities differ between PR and marketing professionals?
    2. Can you outline two major differences between PR activities and advertising tactics?
    3. What are the common tools and tactics used in PR that are not traditionally used in marketing?
    4. In what ways do the measurable outcomes of PR differ from those of marketing efforts?
    5. How does the approach to building audience trust vary between PR and marketing?

Public relations (PR) and marketing often merge in your strategy to reach your customers and grow your brand, but they are not the same. While both aim to enhance your brand’s reputation and influence your audience, the methods and goals differ significantly. PR focuses on maintaining and fostering a positive image and building long-lasting relationships with various stakeholders, such as the media, influencers, and your community. This strategic communication process leverages earned media rather than paid, putting an emphasis on securing favorable coverage and managing the spread of information between your business and the public.

Marketing, on the other hand, concentrates on promoting and selling your products or services. It encompasses a wide range of activities from market research to advertising and sales strategies, all designed to directly influence consumer behavior to increase sales. Your marketing campaigns will typically involve clearly defined metrics, such as conversion rates and return on investment, making its impact directly measurable and closely tied to your company's revenue performance. Unlike PR's focus on building relationships, your marketing efforts are geared towards driving immediate actions from your target audience—motivating purchases through various forms of paid media, promotions, and direct communications.

Marketing vs PR: A Quick Intro

When you embark on promoting your brand and products, understanding the distinction between marketing and public relations (PR) is vital. Marketing is your strategy to directly promote products to consumers, driving sales and increasing market share. PR, however, is more about managing your brand's reputation and building mutually beneficial relationships.

  • Marketing: You focus on the market with the aim to increase sales of a product or service. Through a variety of channels like advertising, social media, and email campaigns, marketing helps to boost brand awareness and directly encourages consumers to make a purchase.

    For example, if your company launches a new product, marketing's role is to ensure your target market knows about it and is persuaded to buy it.

  • PR: In contrast, PR is more subtle and strategic. The goal is to cultivate a positive public image and generate good publicity. It's about managing how the public, your customers, and other stakeholders perceive your brand. PR efforts might include working with media outlets, handling crisis communications, and engaging with influencers and advocates.

    For instance, if a news outlet wants to cover a story on your new product, the PR team would manage this opportunity to ensure that your brand's message is communicated effectively and positively.

Remember that both marketing and PR are crucial to a comprehensive strategy, but they serve different purposes. While marketing is your direct link to sales, PR serves as the steward of your brand's public face. Your challenge is to leverage both to create a coherent image that resonates with consumers and sustains a healthy market presence.

What is the Difference Between PR and Marketing?

In navigating the landscapes of PR and marketing, understanding the unique facets of each can empower you to leverage their strengths effectively for your brand's message and impact.


PR (Public Relations) centers on building and maintaining a positive reputation for your brand, often through media coverage and relationship management. Your approach here is to craft a brand story that resonates with both media and the public. Marketing, on the other hand, directly promotes your services or products to drive sales, using more direct and content marketing strategies to reach your target audience.


With PR, you'll focus on public relations tactics like press releases, event coordination, and media outreach to generate favorable media coverage. In marketing, tactics involve advertising, digital marketing efforts such as SEO and paid efforts, as well as direct outreach through email marketing to encourage immediate conversions.

Target Audience

PR communicates with a broader audience, often beyond potential customers, to include stakeholders, media, and influencers who can help amplify your brand's presence. Your marketing efforts, however, tend to be tailored to specific demographics or personas designed to convert into direct sales.


The primary goal of public relations is to enhance your brand's reputation and maintain public trust, thereby building brand equity over the long term. Marketing aims to generate immediate interest in your products or services, driving up revenue and sales through targeted campaigns.

Metrics You Track

For PR, you'll measure the success through media coverage, brand sentiment, and reputation metrics, which indicate the brand's standing with the public. In marketing, the focus will be on tangible results like conversions, sales volume, ROI, CTR, and other metrics that showcase the success of specific campaigns.


Your PR toolkit includes tools for media monitoring, design tools for creating press materials, and platforms for distributing press releases. In marketing, you'll use a different set of tools, such as digital analytics software, CRM systems for tracking customer interactions, and SEO tools to maximize your content marketing efforts.

Time Frame

PR is a long-term investment where the effects on your brand image and relationships developed with key media personnel may take time to mature. Marketing usually targets short-term goals with strategic timing to take advantage of consumer behavior patterns or specific events to maximize immediate sales and engagement.

Do Marketing and PR Work Together?

In the landscape of business communications, you'll find that marketing and public relations (PR) are not isolated disciplines. Collaboration between these two areas is not only common but also beneficial. An integrated approach leverages the strengths of each to create a cohesive message and strategy.

When marketing and PR efforts are aligned, they create synergy. Marketing typically focuses on promoting products or services to generate sales, while PR is concerned with maintaining a positive image and building relationships. The partnership between the two can lead to a more robust and unified outreach, where PR can provide a credible backdrop to marketing's direct appeal, enhancing the overall impact.

It's important to understand that this collaboration doesn't happen spontaneously; it requires planned joint efforts. Here are a few points that highlight the cooperative nature of marketing and PR:

  • Strategy Development: In creating campaigns, your marketing strategy can be enriched with PR insights to ensure consistent messaging across all channels.
  • Content Sharing: Marketing materials can be utilized by PR to strengthen the narrative, while PR can offer authentic stories for marketing to use.
  • Crisis Management: During a crisis, marketing and PR need to work hand in hand to manage the message and maintain trust.
  • Event Promotion: Events can benefit from the dual roles of PR in fostering relationships and marketing in driving attendance and engagement.

By working together, marketing and PR can amplify your message and help achieve both immediate and long-term organizational goals.

What Comes First Marketing or PR?

When you're laying the foundation for your business's growth, understanding the order of operations for strategy and planning is key. In the dance between marketing and public relations (PR), it isn't always a clear-cut matter of which comes first—both play distinct roles in a comprehensive strategy. However, the initial steps may tilt toward one or the other based on your immediate goals.

Marketing typically involves direct strategies aimed at generating sales. Planning a marketing strategy means you're focusing on creating a strong foundation for product promotion and positioning in the market. This involves:

  • Researching your target audience
  • Defining your product or service offerings
  • Establishing pricing and distribution channels
  • Crafting your message and promotional tactics

On the other hand, PR focuses on building relationships and maintaining a positive reputation. Your PR strategy lays the groundwork for how you want your business to be perceived by the public. Key initial steps include:

  • Identifying key messages and company values
  • Engaging with media and influencers
  • Crafting a positive brand narrative
  • Managing communications to safeguard your public image

Deciding which comes first depends on your company’s specific needs:

If you need to... Consider starting with...
Build a customer base and generate immediate sales. Marketing
Shape perceptions and establish a solid reputation from the onset. PR

Ultimately, both marketing and PR should work in tandem, with the assurance that your strategic planning incorporates a balance between short-term gains and long-term reputation. It's about aligning your initial steps with your overarching goals.

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How to Use PR and Marketing?

When implementing PR and marketing strategies, it is crucial to consider these as distinct but complementary aspects of your broader communication and business growth efforts.

PR (Public Relations):

  • Strategy: Focus on building relationships with the media and public to create a favorable image of your brand. Utilize press releases, events, and community involvement as tools.
  • Execution: Craft compelling stories and pitches to attract media attention. Be responsive and foster ongoing relationships with journalists and influencers.
  • Utilization: Use PR to manage your reputation, handle crisis communications, and position executives as thought leaders.


  • Strategy: Aim to drive sales and generate leads through targeted campaigns. Your content should be designed to convert prospects into customers.
  • Execution: Leverage various channels like email, social media, and advertising to reach your audience with messages that encourage a purchase or action.
  • Utilization: Track marketing efforts through analytics to understand ROI and inform future strategies.


  • Best Practices: Align your PR and marketing to ensure coherent messaging. PR can boost marketing efforts by creating credibility that marketing can leverage for conversions.
  • Case Studies: Study examples where PR enhanced brand reputation, leading to better marketing campaign performance.
  • Strategies: Integrate PR narratives into your marketing materials for a more persuasive appeal.
  • Execution: Plan PR and marketing activities on a unified calendar to maximize impact across channels.

Remember, the harmonious use of PR and marketing hinges on a clear understanding of your audience and consistent, authentic communication. Make sure to adapt your approach based on results and feedback, and continuously refine your tactics for optimal performance.

Is PR Under Marketing?

In the context of organizational structure, Public Relations (PR) and Marketing often operate as distinct entities. Your understanding of each department’s place within a business model is crucial when discerning their relationship.

PR focuses on managing your company's reputation and fostering trust with various external stakeholders, including media, investors, and the public. It typically involves strategic communication and media outreach. On the other hand, Marketing aims to drive sales and promote products or services directly to your potential customers.

When considering the hierarchy of these departments, it's common to see them as separate branches that report independently within the overall structure. However, in some organizations, PR may reside within the Marketing department, particularly if the company adopts an integrated communication strategy where PR supports marketing campaigns.

Here’s a brief outline of their reporting relationship in both scenarios:

  • Separate Entities:

    • Marketing: Directly reports to Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)
    • PR: Reports to Chief Communications Officer (CCO) or PR Director
  • Integrated Model:

    • Both PR and Marketing report under the CMO, with PR acting in a supporting role to Marketing.

In your organization, understanding the business model can help determine how these departments interact. An independent structure could mean PR and Marketing have distinct budgets and goals, whereas an integrated model might have shared objectives and resources.

Remember, the relationship between PR and Marketing in your organization can significantly influence how each department achieves its objectives and contributes to the overall success of the business.

Wrapping Up

When differentiating between PR and marketing, you've seen throughout the article that each serves its unique role in the broader spectrum of brand communication. Here’s a brief recap to reinforce your understanding:

  • Target Audience: PR strategically cultivates relationships with the media and other influencers, while marketing directly engages with potential and existing customers.

  • Primary Focus: The focus of PR is reputation management and garnering positive attention through earned media, whereas marketing aims to drive sales through a mix of paid, owned, and earned media.

  • Approach to Communication: PR leverages storytelling to create a favorable image and build trust, while marketing predominantly uses persuasive tactics to influence purchasing behavior.

  • Measurement of Success: The success of PR is often measured by media coverage, public perception, and stakeholder engagement, contrasting with marketing whose metrics revolve around ROI, sales figures, and conversion rates.

  • Duration and Frequency: PR efforts are generally long-term, striving for sustained relationship building and reputation, whereas marketing campaigns are often more short-term and sales-driven.

Given this information, it's vital to leverage both PR and marketing tactically to cover all aspects of your brand's outreach. Use PR to solidify your standing and trustworthiness in the market, and depend on marketing to execute direct selling strategies and hit specific sales targets. With a firm grasp on the distinct roles and strengths of PR and marketing, you're better equipped to use each effectively for your brand's success.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, you'll find specific information about the distinctive roles in PR and marketing, the difference in their activities and tactics, as well as the unique tools they use. It also covers how success is measured differently in each sector and their respective approaches to building audience trust.

How do the typical job roles and responsibilities differ between PR and marketing professionals?

In PR, professionals typically focus on managing the public's perception of a brand through media relations, crisis management, and event coordination. They act as a liaison between the company and the public. In contrast, marketing professionals are more directly involved with promoting and selling products or services, analyzing market trends, and developing strategies to meet sales objectives.

Can you outline two major differences between PR activities and advertising tactics?

PR activities are centered around fostering a positive image and building relationships with the public through unpaid or earned media. They often include press releases, public appearances, and community engagement. Conversely, advertising tactics directly involve the paid promotion of products, typically through targeted campaigns and various media platforms, aiming for an immediate impact on sales.

What are the common tools and tactics used in PR that are not traditionally used in marketing?

Common PR tools include press kits, media lists, and pitch stories in an effort to secure free media coverage, often regarded as more credible by the public. Tactics such as crisis communication plans and media training are also specific to PR. These tools and tactics are less about direct selling and more about shaping brand reputation and public dialogue.

In what ways do the measurable outcomes of PR differ from those of marketing efforts?

PR outcomes are often measured in terms of brand reputation impact, the quality and sentiment of media coverage, and public engagement with the brand. Marketing outcomes, however, are typically quantified by lead generation, conversion rates, and return on investment related to specific campaigns.

How does the approach to building audience trust vary between PR and marketing?

PR aims to build trust through transparency, consistent communication, and public relations strategies that prioritize reputation management. PR efforts often involve addressing the public in a more personal and narrative-driven manner. Marketing builds trust by aligning product promises with customer experiences and leveraging customer satisfaction to support brand reliability.

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