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PR vs Marketing the difference

PR vs Marketing: The Difference Between PR and Marketing

Marketing broadly refers to the activities undertaken by a company to promote its products, services, or brand. Depending on the company’s nature of business and its target audience, the focus of its marketing activities can vary from being tactical and sales-driven to inspirational and lifestyle-driven, the latter of which is PR-oriented.

Luxury goods are a prime example. BMW doesn’t sell its cars as mere vehicles; they sell the ‘sheer driving pleasure’ of their advanced German engineering and luxurious interiors. In this case, there is significant overlap between marketing and public relations as the brand relies on maintaining a high level of prestige to create and sustain demand.

The rise of social media has also blurred the lines between marketing and public relations, as platforms such as Instagram and Facebook offer an integrated approach to both. The function of social media—being to facilitate social interactions online—simultaneously allows brands to directly promote their products and services to customers.

That said, it’s important to have a clear understanding of both marketing and public relations and the roles they play in helping you achieve your business goals—whether it’s to increase sales, grow market share, or cultivate a positive brand image. This article will explore the following in detail:


  • What Is Marketing?
  • What Is Public Relations?
  • What Is the Difference Between PR and Marketing?
  • The Overlap Between Public Relations and Marketing
  • Marketing & PR in the Digital Age
  • Looking for Professional Expertise in Managing Your PR Needs?


What Is Marketing?

At its core, marketing is focused on increasing sales of a company’s products and services. Typical marketing activities are designed to achieve a range of business goals, such as:

  • Create awareness and interest in the product or service
  • Attract potential customers or users to engage with the brand
  • Increase sales conversions by offering discounts and promotions
  • Build brand loyalty and customer retention

While marketing is an ongoing activity for any business, it is especially crucial for new businesses and newly launched products or services. If people don’t know about your business, they can’t be paying customers. Getting the word out is key.

What Is Public Relations?

Public relations, on the other hand, is a long-term strategy to establish a company’s brand image, credibility, and appeal on an emotional and intellectual level. PR is also essential in crisis management when a company’s reputation is on the line.

In contrast to short-term tactical marketing campaigns, long-term PR campaigns benefit the brand across all levels of the business, from visibility and desirability of its products (think Nike and Apple) to recruitment and customer retention. As Bill Gates allegedly said, “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”

Alongside the pervasiveness of social media, the growing importance of individuality and ethical values in consumer behaviour has made public relations vital for successful marketing in the digital age.

As McKinsey & Company’s 2018 study highlights, Gen Zers—the generation born between 1997 and 2012—view consumption as an expression of individual identity and a matter of ethical concern. In other words, Gen Z consumers care more about authenticity and meaningful causes rather than possessions and fitting in.

To remain relevant and competitive, businesses need to adapt to evolving consumer behaviour. This means incorporating public relations into your marketing plans to cater to Gen Z’s ideology and values.

PR vs Marketing – What’s the Difference?

Both PR and marketing work hand-in-hand to help the company achieve its ultimate vision and goals, but their focus, purpose, approach, and results vary greatly. The following analysis details their key differences:



Marketing: To boost sales of products or services through advertising, tactical promotions, email marketing, social media marketing, etc.

PR: To shape public perception of the brand’s image and credibility through community programmes, speaking events, and media publicity by building relationships with media owners, journalists, and influencers.


Marketing: Activities are transactional, designed specifically to create demand and generate sales.

PR: Activities are relational, designed to build trust and create a positive, likeable brand image.


Marketing: Spike in sales and revenue.

PR: Positioning as a legitimate, credible brand. Positive reviews and endorsements by journalists and influencers are often perceived as more trustworthy compared to advertisements and promotional gimmicks.

Target Audience

Marketing: Existing and potential customers or users.

PR: The general public as well as target customers or users.


Marketing: Often intrusive and one-sided; the audience is usually a passive recipient of the information with no opportunity to respond directly.

PR: The public is encouraged to engage with the brand, e.g. through social media, the company website, or a customer service hotline.


Marketing: Owned and paid media channels. The first refers to all content fully owned by the company. Examples include the company website and blog, social media accounts, email newsletters, etc. Paid media, as the name suggests, refer to all advertising and paid exposure.

PR: Traditionally, PR utilises free publicity via earned media such as mentions by the media, voluntary endorsements by public figures and influencers, and independent product or service reviews. However, earned media requires careful planning and creative storytelling, which makes it the hardest to acquire. As such, modern PR campaigns tend to include owned and paid media channels to optimise exposure.


Marketing: Most consumers have become indifferent to paid advertisements and sales-driven messages, particularly in our digital age where we are constantly bombarded with ads 24/7. Content marketing and SEO have become essential; these approaches provide information that consumers are already searching for, making it targeted and demand-based (more on this later).

PR: Messages distributed through PR channels in the form of independent blog content, featured news articles, and reviews by customers as well as industry experts, all carry a lot more weight and credibility compared to traditional marketing messages.


Marketing: The success of marketing campaigns is usually measured in terms of short-term gains in sales and profits.

PR: The downside to public relations is that perception can’t be measured without conducting proper research on the target audience, which involves getting them to participate in a questionnaire or focus group interviews. These types of research take time, effort, and resources to plan and conduct. PR campaigns are also focused on long-term results, as creating or changing perceptions takes time and consistent effort.


The Overlap Between Public Relations and Marketing

Despite the fundamental differences between PR and marketing, there are similarities between the two functions that often cause confusion, such as in the following areas:


1. Brand Strategy

Both PR and marketing activities need to be designed and executed in a manner consistent with the company’s brand strategy. Let’s take Apple as an example. The brand is renowned for superior design, performance, and the latest technological advancements. As a luxury brand, they don’t offer discounts for their products. Doing that would contradict their brand values and weaken their exclusivity.

2. Messaging

Likewise, the messaging of both PR and marketing activities needs to be in unison with the brand’s positioning and values. Brands that position themselves as eco-friendly would be perceived as untrustworthy if they partner with highly unsustainable businesses, for example. Businesses need to maintain consistent messaging in order to win the public’s trust and confidence.

3. Goal

Both marketing and PR campaigns are intended to achieve a common goal: help the company grow and thrive in all the ways that matter, from expanding market share to attracting investments and top talents.

PR and marketing are not mutually exclusive; they share an almost symbiotic relationship. With effective PR, the company develops a favourable and trustworthy reputation, which makes it easier to market its products and services. Likewise, effective marketing increases the brand’s customer base, making it easier to influence public perception of the company’s reputation and integrity.


Marketing & PR in the Digital Age

The digital age has completely transformed life as we know it, from business to work to education to play. Brands without an online presence are automatically considered irrelevant and outdated.

According to Think with Google, “Shoppers go online first in over 60% of shopping occasions.” On the one hand, the Internet opens up a whole new world of opportunities to reach new customers internationally, allowing a business to tap into global markets. However, developing the necessary expertise in effective digital marketing and PR strategies is essential to stand out online.

Digital Marketing

There is a wide range of digital marketing strategies, tools, and techniques to cater to your target audience and achieve your specific business goals. Certain forms of digital marketing feature PR-centric approaches, which creates an overlap of the two functions.

SEO (search engine optimisation): The primary element that powers search engines such as Google and Yahoo, SEO refers to the ease of finding a specific business online. If your website and blog content were SEO-friendly, they would rank higher on the search results, making it easier for customers to find you when searching for related keywords or information. This approach is targeted and demand-based, making it less intrusive compared to traditional advertising and more PR-oriented.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising: This is the digital form of traditional advertising, but in a more targeted way, since the ads are displayed in relation to search queries and keywords. It’s a useful way to boost visibility as PPC ads are displayed at the top of the search results page, above organic search results.

Social Media Marketing: Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, etc have become hugely popular amongst younger consumers. Social media integrates both marketing and public relations onto a single platform, as brands are able to promote their products and services directly while engaging with the public and customers through comments, likes, emoji interactions, and direct messaging.

Content Marketing: Commonly used as an indirect form of advertising, content marketing refers to creating and promoting useful content via blogs, videos, podcasts, and social media posts. Effective content marketing helps establish brands as credible sources of objective information and draws traffic to the brand’s website and social media channels. Also an effective channel for digital PR campaigns.

Email Marketing: Specifically used to promote content, products, and services to existing subscribers and customers, email marketing is a highly effective way to keep customers engaged and updated on your latest promotions and events. The challenge lies in getting customers to sign up and keeping them from unsubscribing.


Digital Public Relations

PR in the digital age is easier in some ways, as we can reach a wider audience faster with minimal geographical limitations and more cost-effectively, thanks to SEO, social media, and content marketing (as highlighted above).

According to Forbes, 80% of consumers make purchase decisions based on their friends’ social media posts, underscoring the influence of peer recommendations on consumer choices.

Useful digital PR techniques include the following

  • Including backlinks to your website in digital press releases and guest blog articles. This provides readers with easy access to further information and boosts your search rankings with links from high-traffic news sites and blogs.
  • Building relationships with high-authority bloggers, online journalists, and influencers for favourable mentions, endorsements, and positive online reviews.
  • Do video interviews with online media owners about trending topics in your business niche.
  • Offer exclusive previews to industry experts, bloggers, media owners, and influencers for product or service launches.

In conclusion, while marketing and PR used to function separately in the past, the digital age and the shift in consumer values towards authenticity, individual expression, and ethical causes have rendered public relations essential alongside conventional marketing efforts.

It’s no longer enough to just offer quality products and services at competitive prices; other factors such as user experience, personalisation, and the brand’s ethical and social values are increasingly perceived as desirable attributes affecting a purchase decision.

Businesses therefore need to step up their PR game to remain relevant and maintain their competitive edge.

Looking for Professional Expertise in Managing Your PR Needs?

Awarded the Best PR & Marketing Agency in Sydney in 2020, Taurus Marketing has a proven track record amongst Australia’s leading CEOs—from young startups to SMEs to ASX-listed corporations locally and abroad.

Staying true to our ‘No Bull’ ethos, we specialise in strategic marketing, public relations, and creative and social media solutions for focused, results-driven business growth across B2B and B2C sectors.

Let’s talk! We look forward to helping you craft an engaging PR narrative to cultivate the right brand image and develop meaningful rapport with your target audience.


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