Published On: February 8, 2023By

Two balls inbetween curved paper, one ball is yellow on a blue background, one ball is blue on a yellow background

Have you ever asked yourself, “what is the difference between PR and marketing?” Well, you’re in the right place. There are distinct differences between the two, but if you think about it, they’re two sides of the same coin. Here’s a little crash course to help you understand both practices and how they can work together to maximize your brand’s impact.

What makes marketing and PR different from each other?

Marketing. [mahr-ki-ting] noun
  1. The activity or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research, advertising and branding. (
  2. Marketing is a set of business practices designed to plan for and present an organization’s products or services in ways that build effective customer relationships. (Canadian Marketing Association)

Marketing drives sales, promotes specific calls to action and boosts brand awareness through talking to current or potential customers. As a result, it increases an organization’s power to sell. In other words, marketing is the work done to communicate your brand, deliver messages, and generate leads, sales or specific actions.

In industry lingo, marketing is “paid media”—but we see companies and products in the news all the time. Surely, that must drive sales, too—right?

Public Relations. [puhb-lik ri-ley-shuhns] noun
  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 strategic management of relationships between an organization(s) and its diverse publics to achieve a mutual understanding, realize strategic goals and serve public interest. (Canadian Public Relations Society)

PR manages, builds and repairs an organization’s reputation through communicating with various stakeholders, internally and externally. It can include reputation management, media relations, internal communications and crisis communications. In a nutshell, PR is about building relationships.

Back to that industry lingo: marketing delivers paid media, and public relations delivers earned media. We call it “earned” because we have to work for it. We need to understand our brand, our organization, and how we intersect with the people and world around us.

With that knowledge, we seek out attention-grabbing news hooks that help us talk with our stakeholders through media outlets. The end result might be a better reputation and more sales for your company, but the rationale is something different: it’s about finding a compelling reason why your company is worth discussing. What value does it bring? Who does it impact, and how? Why do people care?

A double exposed image of a woman with glasses with a 3-D effect applied

What do marketing and PR have in common, and how can they work together?

Sure, there are plenty of differences between PR and marketing but there is some overlap, too! They both:

  • Showcase and speak to the brand. The brand defines the values and voice of the organization; it’s the organization’s identity. If neither marketing nor public relations take the brand into account, stakeholders will find the messaging disingenuous and inauthentic, resulting in disengagement, decreased sales and a sliding reputation.
  • Rely on each other. If marketing and public relations aren’t cohesive and consistent, neither will work as well. The messaging must work together, or stakeholders will be lost and confused, losing trust in the brand.
  • Influence positioning. A powerful marketing campaign can define a product’s position in marketing, and a simultaneous public relations initiative can solidify that position across multiple audiences.
  • Enhance reputation. A solid public relations campaign can show brand authenticity and increase an organization’s positive reputation. Add marketing into the mix, and you can amplify these efforts.
  • Equip brands for risk management. No matter how much we may want to, we can’t please everyone—and that definitely applies to our marketing efforts. With public relations, we keep those potential risks in mind and develop strategies to mitigate and manage negative reactions.

In short, using public relations and marketing in conjunction with each other amplifies campaigns and initiatives, increases brand awareness, highlights brand authenticity and decreases risk. As a full-service agency in Canada that specializes in both practices, we know a thing or two about joining forces to maximize potential. Want to see an example of marketing and public relations working together? See how we revved up the community to re-embrace Downtown Winnipeg through our Back Downtown campaign!

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