PR vs Marketing: Understanding the Distinct Differences and Synergies (with Infographic)

From an outside perspective, marketing and PR largely seem to encompass the same strategies and tactics.

The primary purpose of the two disciplines is to drive more visibility, improve awareness, and effectively promote a business, which is why many people often confuse the two for each other.

Chelsea Alves, Anatolii Ulitovskyi
Updated: 11.08.2023

Sales funnel

PR isn’t the same as marketing, simply put.

Yet, the lines often blur between the disciplines. We often hear people use the two terms interchangeably when discussing the strategies that drive business awareness and promotion.

However, recognizing the distinct roles the two play within an organization is paramount for tapping into each profession’s unique capabilities and strengths.

Consider this analogy.

You wouldn’t want a restaurant that specializes in Mexican food to make you pasta right?

Even though the restaurant has the capability to make pasta and will use some of the same ingredients, they’re largely two different cuisines. Italian food isn’t their forte.

PR and marketing can be thought of in the same way. Both leverage similar tactics and there is some crossover between the two disciplines, but they can and should be thought of as two individual departments within an organization.

Now that we’ve highlighted that PR intersects marketing in some ways, it’s important to gain a deeper understanding of the role each plays within an organization and their individual strategies for success.

Defining PR and Marketing

PR (Public Relations) plays a key role in an organization’s communications strategy and output. Through effective PR strategies, businesses benefit from improving their brand image, perception, and recognition.

Marketing, on the other hand, is responsible for creating value and interest in a product or service to convince and convert potential customers. In this section, we’ll explore each discipline’s primary purpose and strategies.

PR’s Pivotal Role

A brand’s reputation has the potential to make or break the business. PR holds the key to fostering a positive and respected brand reputation.

Ninety one percent of consumers are more likely to use a business if it has positive reviews. Moreover, the same study revealed that 32% of consumers are likely to visit a company’s website following favorable reviews, while 16% will even visit the business in person.

PR has the power to reshape a customer’s perception of your business from a negative to a positive. When a consumer views your organization more favorably or has a positive customer experience, they’re more likely to promote your business through word of mouth or digitally.

In an era where a positive image is more monumental than before, PR plays an essential role within an organizational structure.

PR teams are responsible for amplifying and enhancing a brand’s image. This team is often the conduit between internal thought leaders, executives, stakeholders, or investors and media. In fact, building strong relationships with relevant media contacts is one of the most important facets of PR.

Next, we’ll explore PR strategies that contribute to a business’ growth and goals.

PR Strategies For Success

PR professionals are tasked with developing lasting relationships with journalists and reporters, engaging with reporters on social media, developing engaging and data-driven pitches to prompt media interest, and maintaining media lists.

To successfully engage with and attract the attention of media, PR teams will:

  • Craft and pitch press releases
  • Pitch internal thought leadership for comment or byline opportunities
  • Hold a press conference
  • Draft and pitch guest blog posts to obtain quality backlinks
  • Respond to media inquiries
  • Handle crises and mitigate negative media coverage

Link building continues to be a search engine ranking signal that holds significant importance when determining search rankings.

By leveraging its media relationships, creating quality content, and helping build a positive brand reputation, PR can play an integral role in acquiring high-quality and authoritative links to boost the brand’s backlink power.

Quality backlinks can improve a website’s domain authority and influence its search engine ranking.

For example, imagine a SaaS company is set to release a new, significant enhancement to its product offering. The PR team will not only want to create hype around this announcement but also obtain high-quality backlinks. To do so PR will:

  • Connect with journalists, specifically seeking out publications and outlets that align with your industry. 94% of PR professionals said that individual, 1:1 emails are the most effective way to pitch journalists, underscoring the importance of personalization.
  • Craft an enticing press release that highlights the new functionality and benefits the feature brings to the market. A link will be embedded within the press release.
  • Pitch the story to the media, which will bring external backlinks to the product announcement page.
  • Create shareable content in hopes the story will be shared by a wider audience.
  • Offer expert opinions from C-level executives to secure more promotion through interviews, podcasts, or guest post contributions.
  • Measure the results of their efforts through brand mentions using free tools such as Google Alerts and Google Trends or paid tools like Brand Watch and Awario.

Marketing’s Pivotal Role

Marketing is a core function in any organization and interacts frequently with a variety of internal teams including sales, customer success, PR, and product.

Marketing teams are tasked with leveraging a mix of strategies to grab potential customers’ attention and guide them through the sales funnel.

To build a comprehensive marketing strategy, marketers must have a firm understanding of the 4 P’s: product, price, place, and promotion. Each of these foundational elements serves as the building blocks upon which successful marketing campaigns are constructed.

This ensures businesses effectively reach their target audience by driving their value over their competitors. To do so, marketing teams will employ a wide breadth of strategies to highlight the organization’s strengths, benefits, and unique selling propositions.

Let’s lean on the previous example of a SaaS company releasing a significant product enhancement and how a marketing team might drive awareness and interest. The marketing team will:

  • Create prelaunch interest through targeted email campaigns, short social media videos, or captivating images that highlight the product’s benefit.
  • Create a consistent posting schedule on social media to create buzz around the product pre- and post-launch.
  • Craft compelling landing page copy to generate interest in the product and a CTA for next steps.
  • Host a webinar to highlight the key features and product differentiators to reach a wider audience.
  • Share exclusive offers on the website, in email campaigns, social media, and more. Use a UTM tags generator to appropriately attribute where leads come from.
  • Draft meaningful content in the form of whitepapers, data sheets, case studies, blog posts, and more to capture user’s attention and drive them to take the next step in the sales funnel.
  • Measure audience engagement through click through rate, bounce rate, time spent on page, clicks, and unique visitors with free tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Paid marketing performance measurement tools include Hubspot and Kissmetrics.

These are just some of the strategies marketing teams might employ to reach a goal. Let’s hone in on other ways marketing teams deliver meaningful results.

Marketing Strategies For Success

Marketing teams utilize numerous tactics to attract their target audience to take action, some of which we mentioned in the previous section’s example. Ideally, the culmination of these tactics results in a loyal customer who becomes a repeat purchaser and an advocate for your business.

There are two primary categories marketing strategies fall into which include inbound and outbound marketing.

Inbound marketing focuses on establishing deeper connections with your audience by presenting meaningful and helpful content.

Outbound marketing often involves a more “traditional” approach marketers historically would use such as cold calls, direct mail, or paid ads. While outbound marketing is more of a direct sell, it can still benefit a business and be used as a means to attract customers.

The following are a mixture of both inbound and outbound marketing strategies a business can make use of to reach and engage customers.

Content marketing

Content marketing comes in a wide variety of formats; some of these formats include email copy, social media posts, e-books, whitepapers, research studies, blog posts, infographics and more.

The purpose of content marketing is to present valuable information to the reader. This information should solve pain points and inform users why your business is the best choice. It can also help improve a site’s SEO when helpful, well-optimized content is created.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO helps websites appear higher in search results. The goal is to improve your site’s visibility whenever a potential customer is seeking your business’ products or services. This can be achieved through content optimization efforts and using keyword research tools.

Social Media Marketing

Seventy five percent of consumers use social media to research products. Maintaining an active online presence across popular social media platforms maximizes your business’ online presence and provides another outlet for consumers to purchase your products.

Find out where your target audience spends most of their time. Are they frequently on TikTok? Do they open Instagram throughout the day? Prioritize your social media presence where your people are.

Traditional Advertising

Traditional advertising has proven to be successful for a multitude of brands for years. These advertisements come in the form of radio, TV, billboards, online and more as a method to sell products or services through a forum that’s already capturing a consumer’s attention.

Event Sponsorship

Companies pay a venue, event, or organization in exchange for brand awareness among potential customers. For example, a business may sponsor a local 5K race to promote a new store opening in that particular neighborhood.

Influencer Marketing

Brands will work closely with an individual within its niche with a large following to help promote its products or services. The influencer might be paid to show the product in a picture or create a video to share the product more in depth.

Email Marketing

A business will send strategic and targeted emails to customers to attract attention, highlight a deal, stay top of mind, or share a relevant promotion. Marketers find this endeavor to be highly beneficial, with 79% of marketers placing it in their top 3 most effective channels.

Understanding the Nuances Between PR and Marketing

As we can see, marketing and PR strategies contrast, yet complement one another. PR focuses on controlling the brand narrative, shaping the image, and developing positive perceptions.

This often involves forging strong relationships with external agencies and media outlets while working hand in hand with thought leaders to widely distribute a message.

Conversely, marketing focuses on understanding consumer behavior at a deep level and creating strategies to engage its target buyer. To accomplish this, marketing teams must consistently perform market research and compare against their competition to identify opportunities.

Having a firm understanding of the organization’s target audience enables marketing to refine its strategies and personalize outreach. Marketing influences consumer behavior through email, content, advertising, and other forms of offline and online marketing tactics.

In a nutshell, PR is responsible for creating and disseminating a well-crafted story that resonates with its target audience. This story helps bring the brand to life and create a positive experience with the reader.

Marketing brings that story to life by deepening the relationship with customers and guiding them down the sales funnel.

The ultimate goal of marketing is to compel customers to take action in the form of a download, demo, purchase and more. PR and marketing overlap at various points of the sales funnel, yet their unique strategies and approaches should work together harmoniously to drive business growth.

The infographic below visually outlines the distinct responsibilities between marketing and PR in terms of:

  • Goals
  • Target audience
  • Promotional methods
  • Analyzing results

PR vs Marketing

Decoding the Common Ground Between PR and Marketing

The truth is that you can’t advertise your products without a little PR and you can’t provide PR without a little marketing.

Customers aren’t motivated to purchase products from a brand without a positive reputation or unrecognizable brands.

Customers also don’t buy products without marketing that pushes them to purchase. Yet only 20% of PR professionals are involved in developing a company’s overall marketing strategy, which leads many PR and marketing teams operating in silos.

The two departments can and should remain closely integrated and maintain close communication to ensure optimal business results.

Both teams often work together on larger campaigns (such as the aforementioned product launch example) and interact on a regular basis to ensure alignment on product launches, positioning and messaging, creating consistency in brand tone and voice, and identifying buyer personas.

Breaking down the barriers between the two teams helps pave the way for the organization’s overall success.

Perhaps the greatest area where PR and marketing intertwine most is content development. Every message sent via email, piece of content published onsite, and byline pitched requires a strategic approach.

This approach should encapsulate the overarching message of the campaign and align seamlessly throughout every piece of communication.

Whether your PR team is publishing a press release or marketing is scheduling a post on Facebook, each message must maintain the same voice and tone for consistency purposes.

For example, the marketing team may be running a 25% off discount for the first 20 people who purchase a new product. PR teams need to be made aware of this special offer to align messaging when reaching out to publications for potential ad placements in a sponsored or guest post.


Marketing and PR are two separate disciplines that operate largely independently from one another. Despite their unique differences, it’s easy to see why there’s confusion. Both share common objectives and share the end goal of driving business growth.

Businesses that understand and acknowledge the unique differences between the two are better aligned to reach awareness, promotion, positioning, and loyalty goals.

When confusion arises, remember the following takeaways to truly recognize the value of marketing and PR.

  • PR guards and grows a brand’s reputation through well-crafted press releases, thought leadership placements, events, and continual media outreach.
  • Marketing promotes your business’ products and services through a healthy mixture of inbound and outbound techniques. Marketers lean on the 4 P’s—product, price, place, and promotion—to engage potential buyers and lead them down the funnel to purchase.
  • PR and marketing engage with each other at every stage of the sales funnel.
  • A symbiotic relationship between marketing and PR can help businesses achieve success through alignment in communications and messaging.
  • Marketing and PR are vital to every organization in any industry.

When cross-functional teams master the art of integration and act as one cohesive unit, businesses are better poised to maximize outputs, innovation, and improved customer experiences to take the organization to greater heights.

Optimize your business’ success with a cohesive, clear strategy that’s effectively communicated across every team within your organization, including PR and marketing.

PR vs. Marketing FAQs

What is the primary goal of PR?

PR’s main goal is to create and maintain a positive brand image through communications. PR professionals develop relationships with media (including journalists and reporters) to help control brand perception and the brand’s public image.

What is the primary goal of marketing?

Marketing professionals’ main goal is to assist potential customers through the sales funnel to the point of purchase and beyond at the loyalty stage. They do this by creating useful content, having a deep understanding of buyer’s needs and preferences, segmenting audiences for more personalization, and engaging effectively with the target audience.

What are common PR strategies?

A few common PR strategies include building media relations, collaborating with influencers or thought leaders, handling potential crises, award submissions, guest blog posts, pitching bylines, and more.

What are common marketing strategies?

A few common marketing strategies include content creation, social media management, email marketing, email marketing, paid ads, building loyalty programs, and more.

How does PR measure success?

A few key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure PR success include media mentions (earned, paid, and social), share of voice, surveys to assess customer’s opinion of the company, awards and recognition, PR metrics (such as click-through-rates), and social media follower counts/shares/comments.

How does marketing measure success?

A few KPIs to measure marketing success include measuring leads, unique visitors, bounce rate, click-through-rate, email engagement, time spent on site, marketing qualified leads, and search engine rankings.

How do marketing and PR collaborate?

Marketing and PR teams collaborate in numerous ways including ensuring consistent messaging across all content, aligning on positioning, and driving a positive brand image.

What is the difference between marketing and PR?

PR professionals plant the seed with potential customers during the awareness stage by establishing a positive brand image. Marketing helps guide customers through the sales funnel by promoting products or services and ultimately driving conversions.

What’s the difference between earned and paid media?

Earned media refers to content written about your company that your business hasn’t paid for. For example, a PR team will pitch news of a product launch to a media list so they can gain earned media in the form of a news story on different publications. Paid media refers to paid ads on channels such as Google Search, TV, podcasts, social media, and other digital channels.

Is social media a marketing or PR initiative?

Social media is leveraged by both marketing and PR professionals. PR uses social media to build relationships with journalists and reporters. Marketing monitors customer feedback and engages with followers.

Are marketers PR professionals?

Despite having some overlap, marketing and PR are two separate professions. Both have divergent goals and day-to-day responsibilities. Businesses benefit from creating separate roles (PR and marketing) to attract the right candidates with specialized skill sets.

Can a company have marketing but not PR?

Marketers serve as the behind the scenes sales drivers. Their main focus is to promote a business’ products or services with the end goal being a completed sale. This leaves little time or room to focus on building brand recognition. Therefore, it’s beneficial for a company to have both marketing and PR.

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