Marketing vs. Public Relations: What’s the Difference?

Marketing vs. Public Relations

Marketing vs. Public Relations: What’s the Difference?

With a rapidly changing online environment, businesses have more access to and transparency on consumer behaviours, opinions and beliefs than ever before. Consequently, this has inadvertently blurred the lines between traditional communication practices; namely marketing and public relations. The internet has changed the landscape in which businesses communicate with customers, and vice versa, by providing immediate access to real time stories and responses from brands and consumers.

So, what is the difference between marketing and public relations?


At the end of the day, marketing is about sales. The main priority is to sell products or services by targeting existing and potential customers.

Public relations is focused on building and upholding relationships, as well as maintaining a positive brand reputation.


Marketers tend to focus on the target audience of potential customers; these are people who have a demand or need for the promoted product or service. Ongoing qualitative reporting is required to assess the effectiveness of marketing messages, as well as the relevance of products to the specified target market.

PR aims to uphold a positive reputation and build a relationship with anyone who has an interest in the organisation – including both internal and external target audiences. PR can focus on a broad demographic from the general public and key stakeholders, to more niche target audiences including the media or investors.


Marketing focuses on building leads, nurturing prospects and converting to sales.

PR focuses on positive media coverage and stakeholder communication so the reputation of the company is upheld and there is a positive perception amongst the public. This creates gateways to sales through building leads, but is less focussed on conversion.

Overall marketing aims to trigger an action or response from a customer (purchase), whereas PR focuses on awareness and education of a brand or organisation (opinion).


Marketing campaigns are often scheduled around a certain period of time relevant to the product or service, for instance, new product development (NPD) launches, seasonal demand or topical relevance. An example of this might be a large bottled water brand campaign that is based around summer when the weather is hot and therefore the demand or need for the product is much higher than at other times of the year.

PR on the other hand can either be reactive or proactive depending on the situation and hence can occur at anytime. A reactive situation might be an escalated customer complaint which needs to be addressed by the organisation for clarification to the wider public. Or a proactive scenario may include a goodwill gesture which promotes the overall culture and vision of the brand and it’s people.


When it comes to content, marketing is focused heavily on exposing key reasons why the customer would have a demand or need for this product. Messages are developed to create an emotional or intellectual connection with existing or prospective consumers, ultimately leading to purchase.

PR generates and shares stories that are newsworthy or topical. Ultimately the target audience should always feel positive towards the brand, so content aims to maintain trust amongst existing advocates, build thought leadership or convert target audiences to loyalists or advocates.


When marketing a product, a business has complete control over the information they choose to communicate to an audience. For example, they have authority over promotional products, branding, sponsorships, design elements and so on. Of course, this doesn’t mean that brands can control how the message is received.

PR relies on earned media opportunities through the media or social media. The media will publish information about the business at their own discretion, just as people will discuss your brand on social media however they choose For instance, a journalist may receive a press release only to pick and choose which messaging they believe to be relevant or true, essentially leaving the business with no control over how their information is presented. However, the credibility of a third party endorsement often makes the lack of control worthwhile.


If you’re wondering which avenue is better for your business’ communication strategy, it’s important to focus on identifying your objectives first, as this will ultimately help determine the best course of action.

If you’re looking at how you can improve or implement your business communication strategy, contact us today.

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