“What’s the difference between marketing and public relations? Is there a need to separate public relations and marketing departments? Don’t they do the same things?”

Admittedly, both marketing and public relations departments have similar end goals – positive reputation and selling the company’s product – which could lead to confusion.

However, there definitely are differences between PR and marketing and we’re here to give you a better idea on both.


PR Marketing
Main differences
Focus on promoting and selling of the company’s product
Maintain positive reputation of the company as a whole
Sells a product, brand or person with the positive reputation via communications with stakeholders and the general public
Reach customers to carry out sales-focused action.
Success metrics
Positive press generated online or in trade publications, media broadcasts and digital platforms
Product meeting or exceeding sales goals
Awards won from industry events
Positive return on investment from various marketing and advertising strategies and campaigns
Buzz created by social media profiles, influencers, bloggers and the public as a whole
Increase in quality online traffic for the product
Positive or negative sentiment of media coverage
Growth in social media following after promoting content on different platforms
Target audience
Consumers, stakeholders, investors, media, and also employees
Both existing and prospective consumers
Press releases, internal company circulars, advertorials, business events, speaking engagements, sponsorships or partnerships
Digital advertising, email marketing, targeted ads, sales promotion, newsletters, in-person selling


Public relations strategically manages communications that build mutually beneficial relationships between your company and audience.

PR focuses on building relationships with various media outlets and also elevating the reputation of their clients’ brands.

The goal of public relations is to create brand awareness, trust, and loyalty to your company. To stand out against your competitors, your company needs to build brand recognition and a trusted relationship with your audiences.

PR channels of communication include earned media, speaking at events, partnerships and more.

On the other hand, marketing focuses on promoting and selling a product or service provided by your company.

Marketing activities include performing market research which sees how well your product or service would do in the market, identifying your target audience, and advertising.

Marketing’s goals include creating a demand for your products and services by triggering a response. Their goal is to eventually establish an interested buyer.

Marketing channels include social media and Google ads, email marketing, newsletters, and more.

Paid VS Earned Media

One of the major differences between PR and marketing is the use of paid versus earned media.

Marketing often uses paid media where you pay to get visitors, reach and sales through web searches, display ad networks or affiliate marketing. This also applies to offline media such as print and television advertisements.

PR values earned media which doesn’t usually cost anything and leverages on the relationships built with the media. Earned media is the publicity generated from different types of partners like publishers, bloggers and influencers along with customer advocates.

It also includes word of mouth which can be through conversations on social networks, blogs and other communities.

The benefits of having earned media include:

  • More exposure to your brand’s message
  • Seeing your message in new and different media types
  • Having your brand message endorsed by trusted sources
  • Communicating with your consumers through their preferred social channels

The only drawback when it comes to earned media is the lack of control which could lead to negative comments.

Although it sounds like an obstacle, negative comments can become an opportunity for your company to shine.

All you need to do is have your PR team handle any complaints or negative comments quickly, politely and with all sensitivity and goodwill to turn the negative comment into a positive example of how your company handles any issues.

Other important aspects of PR include effective monitoring and response which ensures that your earned media content is positive. And when it’s not, all queries and especially negative reviews or comments are dealt with quickly and politely.

Another reason earned media is highly regarded is that consumers are becoming more discerning.  Sponsored content or advertisements are viewed with extra scrutiny and sometimes, purposely ignored.

How many times have you read an article and seen the words ‘in partnership’ or ‘sponsored by’ and thought, “I don’t know if I can trust what they say since they’re being paid to say nice things.”

Thus, although paid media increases brand awareness, earned media fosters brand conversations which builds brand trust and loyalty.

Price of marketing vs PR

Let’s be real, it’s always down to the budget. If you’re a small business trying to get your brand out there on a limited budget, it can get very difficult if you’re purely relying on marketing channels.

Marketing usually requires a higher budget because social media advertisements, email marketing, search engine targeted ads and newsletters all come at a price.

These channels are often provided via various third parties which all have differing prices and these costs can add up.

Additionally, if you stop paying for these forms of paid media, your content stops being shown to your targeted audiences.

As for public relation channels, earned media costs less and most times, doesn’t cost anything at all. Earned media also builds trust in your brand and credibility as well.

PR can help to put your message out there on a lower budget while extending the shelf life of your brand’s message.

With SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), news articles, blogs and social media posts remain searchable on search engines for as long as the pages exist.

This is beneficial as your audience will be able to look you up and see that you have been reviewed by trusted media sources without being paid.

In turn, this allows your audience to trust in your brand’s message and turn them into your customers. Their experience with your brand can convert them into customer advocates as well.. all from good PR messaging!

An additional facet when it comes to public relations is that it is able to advertise your business organically without conforming to traditional strategies.

PR campaigns and programs can elevate your company by targeting the right audiences. For example, if your product is for teenagers, a PR team can form a strategy that involves different teen magazines, media outlets, and social media influencers that teenagers follow.

So, depending on the strategy, a PR team can connect your business to the right people and media outlets, and also craft custom campaigns so you can optimally reach your target audience.

Brand Trust & Loyalty

We’ve mentioned brand trust and loyalty a few times already but how does PR play a part in instilling this?

Think about your trusted brands and why you keep buying from them. Perhaps it’s their stance on the environment or you like that they share knowledge about their industry.

Becoming a thought leader in your industry shows your target audience that you are an expert at your field and thus, offer the best products or services.

PR can help to position you as a thought leader by publishing white papers, case studies and also arrange for people in your company to become spokespeople. This helps to show everyone that your brand is an expert at what you do, and this instils trust among your consumers and gives your company credibility.

When it comes to talking to your target audience, a one-way form of connection where you just give them information can’t cut it anymore. PR can help you build mutually beneficial relationships with your consumers via social media or even through something they’re reading or watching.

This pushes consumers to want to interact with your brand and reach out via social media or other channels. Much like our everyday interactions, we’re more likely to trust someone we’ve built a relationship with and that applies to brands as well.

PR can also add value to your target audiences by answering questions, providing tips and also educating them on topics about your industry.

So, instead of just having products and services, you become a trusted brand who educates their customers and gives extra information which enriches their experience. This retains your customers and they’re more likely to come back to you in the future.

Key Takeaways –

Marketing can help your company build brand awareness and drive sales initially, but PR encourages long-term conversations about your brand while maintaining your company’s reputation. PR done right could blast your company’s message to a large audience while keeping costs lower compared to traditional marketing and advertising. Additionally, public relations can position your brand as a thought leader, making your company more credible and instilling brand trust and loyalty.

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