As a small business owner, you’d have come across so many people using the terms ‘Public Relations’ (PR) and ‘Marketing’ interchangeably. Mostly these two terms are thought of to be same. But did you know that they’re not the same, but do have a slight borderline of differences between them?

Being the boss of your company, first, get to know how PR and marketing are different from each other. Only then you can know which one to adopt for your business.

First, let’s look into these quick definitions.

  • Marketing: The process of promoting, selling or distributing your products/goods/services to your customer.
  • Public relations: The action of building up public understanding and goodwill/trust towards your company and its products or services.

Wanna get it clearer? Now, look at these examples.

Let this be more interesting ok…You love a girl and you’re proposing directly to her, “I love you, Rachel.” This is in Scenario 1.

Oh no…You don’t want to tell her directly that you love her. But you pretty want to let her know how true your love is and how much you are obsessed with her.

Call up Tom your friend. Tell him about your feelings and now Tom stands before Rachel and says, “Jack loves you so truly that he can’t live without you. And he’s a guy who deserves you more than anyone else on this earth. He’s such a lovable human!” This is in Scenario 2.

Scenario 1 is Marketing and Scenario 2 is Public Relations.

You yourself taking up steps and promoting your product is marketing and making the public to know about you through some other third party is Public Relations. Got it?

See below the sample Ad and PR of the same service offered by

First comes the advertisement and next comes the PR (news article).

Advertisement (Marketing) about Black Friday

PR about Black Friday

Key Differences Between PR and Marketing

PR and marketing are related to each other. But both are employed with totally different strategies. These are the main differences between PR and marketing which will help you to draw line between them and get to know which one to implement for your small business.

1.COST : Paid / Free

Marketing your product involves your pocket to be emptied. Yes, you need to have a marketing budget for executing ads and other marketing campaigns to sell your product. And your ad appears as planned. So, advertising comes to underpaid media.

In contrary, PR is based upon a third party endorsement of your company and its something similar to earned media. This mostly involves publishing press releases or other newsworthy articles about your product in any news outlet at free of cost. And you cannot have much direct control over it as to when and how to publish it.

2.MAIN OBJECTIVE : Value / Image

Both marketing and PR’s basic focus is to promote the brand and gain popularity. But, the chief purposes differ: Marketing targets on selling selling selling……whereas PR targets on gaining trust and relationships with the public.

Marketing strategies mainly shoot upon making customers buy their products. It’s complete sales – oriented. Whereas while speaking about PR, it’s about building positive relationships with your target audience through exposure and broadcast media such as TV, radio, newspapers and so on.

Marketing = Customer Interest; PR = Customer relationships.

3.CONTENT: Twist / Straight

In marketing, content is one of the main aspects of advertising the product. It involves all attractive twisted content to induce your customers to buy the product.

In PR, content is all about straightforward facts without spins or turns. It’ll be mostly in the form of news just informing people about your product.

You’ll understand this correctly by looking at the ad and PR of Black Friday example.

4.CONTROL: Full/Free

You can have 100% control over the marketing efforts of your company. It can be ad or campaigns or contests or whatever way in which you’re trying to promote your brand, everything lies in your hands. How? What? And Where? You can decide everything man!

But in PR? Oops! You have zero control over it once you hand over any news release to the PR agency or media. They are not compelled to publish it and even if they do, they can pitch something, drop out something or do whatever tricks or twirls they wanted to do with it.

Differences between Advertising and PR

Though these are the four key differences between PR and marketing, there are still more distinctions between the two, which are as follows.

  • Activities or Tactics employed:

Marketing -> promotional, direct marketing and advertising to boost sales

PR – > reputation management by creating positive media coverage and stakeholder communications

  • Target audiences

Marketing -> potential customers alone

PR -> anyone in the public who’s interested in the organization or brand

  • Two distinct goals

Marketing goals – Sales focused actions to reach consumers and sell the product. Its direct goal is revenue.

PR goals – Maintenance of positive image between the company and its public thereby indirectly boosting the company (product)’s reputation. Its direct goal is Good name.

  • Legitimacy of messages

Articles or press releases or any content written by PR professionals are considered to be more credible and legitimate by the consumer group. Whereas, advertising content is very well known by the audiences that it’s the company’s own effort to boost their sales. So, people consider PR as more trustworthy than ads.

  • Business ROI

Your Return on Investment (ROI) is easily measurable in marketing than in PR. Because Marketing is more focused on direct sales, you can easily make out how many leads have been roughly generated with your marketing tactics.

But, since PR’s focus is on building an image, trust, and relationships with your prospective customers, there can’t be many possibilities for ROI in terms of revenue.

  • Longevity

Marketing – Short term activity because its goal is about yielding instant revenue or sales

PR – Long term investment because over time, the benefits of its positive reinforcement towards the public can be recognised for future success.

Benefits of PR and Marketing

Though PR and marketing are considered interchangeable in the business world or PR comes under one of the marketing strategies, its benefits are often not much realised. This is because its outcomes are not measurable. But still, PR’s benefits can be measured and can reach more audience when adopting it in the right way.

Similarly, Marketing also can reap out many benefits only when executing it according to your business. There are many marketing tactics like Social Media marketing, direct mail, campaigns, ads and the like. You should know what and which strategy you should adopt for your business to reach that level you’re trying for.

Following are some of the advantages of both PR and Marketing.

  • With PR, your company gets increased awareness.
  • With Marketing, your product gets brand recognition through increased contacts.
  • With PR, your company’s image gets strengthened.
  • With marketing, interaction with your customer's increases.

Which and How To Choose: PR or Marketing For Your Business?

You’ve seen the differences and benefits of both PR and Marketing.

But as mentioned earlier, there’s only a slight boundary between the two.

Considering PR, though it boosts your company’s image and positive opinion, that alone is not enough for your business. All you need is favorable returns in the form of monetary profits, isn’t it? So, PR cannot stand alone but can be incorporated into your marketing strategy.

“PR is just knowing…..but Marketing is doing”. – This is the key boundary.

Since it’s only a fine line of differentiation between PR and Marketing, there’s a bridge which merges both these. That is ‘Social Media’.

Social Media has broken up the barriers between the two as sites like Facebook and Twitter post both press releases as well as advertising Materials. Although PR and marketing services to be operating under two different strategies and purposes, Social media has blurred their boundaries. As a result of this, for your business to take up the next level, coordination and communication between both PR and marketing teams can lead up to mutual success of your brand’s promotion.

On the whole, if you want to boost up your business, instead of focusing on which is better, it’s best to go for how to integrate both of them into your marketing strategies and climb up the ladder of success. Since the lines between PR and marketing have started to soften due to the emergence of Social Media, it’s possible for business owners to blend them together and complement each other for receiving favorable outcomes.

What’s best for your business depends highly on your particular needs so that you can create a strategy that will work out for the best.

Do you prefer total control via marketing or slightly released control via free publicity?

Are you more interested in sales and branding, or just the positive image of your company matters first?

So, with answers for questions like these, you can decide and devise up the best strategy, whether it’s PR or Marketing or a combination of both.

But, be alert enough that you reach your goal successfully.


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