How Marketing Grads View PR

My view on public relations has started to change from what I was taught in college.

My psychology professor always lumped terms like “marketing”, “public relations” and “advertising” together, most likely due to a lack of interest in the subject. Professors in my business classes were eager to point out the differences between them. They took pride in the distinctions and were quick to reprimand anyone who failed to separate them. Of course there are similarities, but saying someone in marketing is a PR person is akin to calling someone in the Marines “Army boy” (not something I recommend doing).

I quickly learned the difference between marketing and PR. The goals of a marketer are sales and profit, while the goals of a PR person are positive perceptions and understanding. My professors would show how they could complement each other, but there was always this tension between them.

The two fields battle each other for scarce internal resources, each trying to show that it is more important for the company’s long term survival. It is similar to two brothers fighting for their mother’s attention. The mother could give all of her attention to one and do away with the other, but she would be a terrible parent. The same goes for a business. Getting rid of one is a sure fire way to ruin a company.

But things are not the same these days. With the explosion of social media, the lines begin to blur between marketing and PR. I no longer see the black void between the two that was instilled by my business professors. Companies are using their Twitter streams and Facebook pages to both market themselves and carefully craft consumer perceptions. While press releases and marketing campaigns still show the differences between the two subjects, the new shiny mediums are blending the two together, complementing each other and making businesses more efficient and effective.

The two have reconciled their differences and find that it is easier to get attention when they work together. They are still separate entities and hate being mistaken for one another, but their symbiotic relationship has helped them flourish. Is it a more mature relationship that will continue, or is it just a mutual respect over a new toy, easily forgotten once the initial appeal is gone?

About the Author
Jake Cripe is a recent Marketing graduate from the University of Dayton. Follow him on Twitter via @JakeCripe.


11 comments on “How Marketing Grads View PR

  1. This is a helpful post, Jake–and congrats on graduating! For many of us who are far removed from our undergraduate studies, it helps to hear how the communications practices are being presented to the next generation of PR and marketing professionals. Social media is a good point to make as well–it’s definitely blurring the lines and encouraging real integration between the PR and marketing departments for the better.

  2. Thanks Krista! I think that as those lines continue to blur, marketing and PR pros will get a better understanding of each other. Hopefully that will help to continue the integration and symbiotic relationships.

  3. As someone who has a degree in journalism, a strong interest in PR and works in marketing, I completely agree marketing and PR need to work together. If you only market to your customers and prospects, they will only think your company wants their money. If you only engage in PR, you may not drive enough sales to justify your existence in the company. When marketing and PR come together, you can drive sales and still maintain existing and new relationships with customers and other key audiences. A jaded customer who only thinks you want their money is definitely a risk of leaving to a competitor.

    For social media, I definitely recommend the 20/80 method. Market yourself 20 percent of the time and engage in PR (sharing content, etc…) the other 80 percent.

    • Chris, I completely agree with your 20/80 method. If you spend most of your time marketing yourself, you come off as the sleazy car salesman. Share valuable content and you build strong relationships that will take much of the work out of marketing yourself. Customers can tell when you are trying to help them and when you are trying to help yourself. Focus on the former and they will help you in return. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Hi Jake–

    When you say…”The goals of a marketer are sales and profit, while the goals of a PR person are positive perceptions and understanding,” I completely agree.

    As a PR student currently working in Marketing and I couldn’t agree more.

    And I hope it’s a more mature relationship that will continue…


    • Thanks Steph! The long term goals of the two may differ, but that is no reason they cannot take the same path to get to them. I’m glad to see you are involved in both areas and that this resonated with you.

  5. Good thing I read all the way through because my thoughts around what I was going to comment were boiling. PR and marketing have definately overlapped. PR firm pitches now surprising cover lead generation. This is not something that PR professionals would have been a part of in the past. True their efforts certainly led to successful close/win business but not tracked, accounted for leads. Also, as you mention, they are playing a role in social. I think we may see some battles between PR and marketing because who owns this? Are they replacing an in-house person potentialy by adding services like social media participation and monitoring and content marketing? This is what I wonder.

    • Haha I appreciate you reading all of the post before leaving scathing remarks. You bring up a good point. It may indeed bring about some battles because social focuses on both marketing and PR. The job doesn’t necessarily replace an in-house person (though a lot of companies have brought on a person specifically to handle social). If the company follows the 20/80 idea laid out by Chris, they could give the job to someone in PR and rely on the marketing department to effectively communicate with the person to make sure their needs are also met (or vice versa). Thanks for your comment Christina!

  6. I’ve always seen public relations as a part of marketing (this coming from a PR pro). No matter what the tactical approach is, ultimately, the goal of PR and marketing is the same- driving some kind of growth (dollars, membership, w/e). So the PR approach may be to build thought leadership, while a more standard, marketing approach might be through branding and advertising efforts- the desired end is the same.

    I never understood the line in the sand that exists between PR and marketing. We’re all on the same team. And, as you thoughtfully mentioned Jake, with digital marketing and social media, it’s even more complicated to determine what falls where.

    I’m always curious how other people see this topic. For me, it comes down to this- we’re all selling something, whether it’s a product, service or story pitch.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Melissa. The end goal is the same, they just take different roads to get there.

      The problem occurs when you have a company with scarce resources and you have two departments with different ideas of how to reach that end goal. It makes it difficult to allocate those resources without seeming to favor one department over the other. Thankfully, social media makes it a bit easier to pool those resources together; driving efficiency, team work, and customer satisfaction.

      Figuring out how the departments can share their resources and build off of each other will give any company a huge strategic advantage.

      Thanks for your comment Melissa!

  7. Pingback: How to Make a Name for Yourself as an Intern « PR at Sunrise

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