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PR vs Marketing: Understanding the Key Differences

Marketing Vs Public Relations

PR and marketing are two key business processes and oftentimes I find people confusing the two, or misunderstanding their purpose. While these two business processes often overlap, they achieve different things and the approach to each is also different.

It’s important to distinguish between the two business essentials so that you can make effective campaigns in each and this is what we will discuss below. Read on to find out about PR vs marketing, how they differ, and the typical processes involved with each function.

PR - Building Positive Business Relationships

So, what is PR? This is an age-old process that has been utilized as a profession since the early 1900s. While there were originally PR professionals and PR companies, it’s typically taken care of in-house today.

PR is the process of improving your public perception and forging positive relationships with your customers. You want your PR to drive engagement, make people see your business in a favourable light, and build a bond of trust.

Ultimately PR strives to boost sales and profit, but this is usually a by-product of the process and not the central focal point. Instead, you want customers to have a positive experience when dealing with your company.

Example functions involved in PR include media relations, events, brand journalism, and reputation management. This also means dealing with negative press and trying to smooth over difficult situations to prevent reputation damage by things like apologies, or trying to spin events from a different perspective.

Marketing - Promoting or Selling A Businesses Offerings

Marketing is directly involved in the sales of your products and/or services – basically, you are trying to get people to spend money and buy into your business. It is a more financially driven process and concentrates mainly on the selling aspect as opposed to the aim of building a positive business reputation that PR strives to do.

Marketing includes things like social media campaigns, radio adverts, brochures, new product press releases, email newsletters, and website content. The basic thought process in marketing is that your customers have a problem, and they need your product to overcome that problem, so you are simply bringing A and B together.

Today, marketing is largely done online and traditional marketing methods like leaflets, brochures, TV adverts, and radio are not as popular. These have been overshadowed by social media, influencer marketing, and video content marketing for example.

The Main Differences Between PR and Marketing

With a brief introduction to PR and marketing, we can look at business specifics and see how the two processes result in different activities and functions such as their goals, target audience, and measurable metrics.


The goals for marketing and PR are usually different but there can be some vague overlaps. PR goals are concerned with things like improving business mentions, social media following gains, articles written about your company, and share of voice in the industry.

In contrast, typical marketing goals include reach, conversions, sales, profit, and sale value per customer. In short, marketing goals are usually financially driven, whereas PR goals can be less tangible and focused more on boosting reputation and visibility.


For both processes, the target audience is highly important, but marketing and PR usually have some differences in who they are aimed at. PR can involve targeting journalists, other businesses, news outlets, and influencers – not always the end customer.

This differs from marketing as you are primarily concerned with reaching the end customer and trying to convert them into sales.

Daily Activities

On a day-to-day basis, what a PR specialist and marketer does will vary hugely too. A PR specialist may try to get in touch with journalists and forge connections in the industry. They may also analyse the presence of the company in the industry and try to assess how popular they are.

Marketers will spend time creating marketing campaigns such as social media posts, blog articles, content, and maybe even video content. They are more concerned with interacting with the end customers from a sales perspective.


Analyzing the success of both marketing and PR is especially important, but the metrics used to assess how effective each process differs.

For PR metrics like SoV (Share of Voice), reach, and brand mentions are commonly used as these help show how much your business is being talked about. Marketing metrics are more financially motivated and often include things like sales, average sales value, new customers, customer acquisition cost, customer value, and ROI.

PR and Marketing Can Overlap

Something you should understand about PR vs marketing is that you don’t have to keep the two processes strictly apart. Oftentimes they overlap and business campaigns can contribute towards both marketing and PR and a b2b digital PR agency can help you understand this.

For example, you may run a social media campaign on Instagram and Facebook to boost sales of a new product. Depending on the content, tone, and positivity in the social media posts, this campaign could just as easily contribute towards PR too.

PR and Marketing are Different But Often Have Blurred Lines

I hope you have a clear idea of the differences between PR and marketing and that you can see that the two processes are mutually beneficial and often overlap. Indeed, PR tactics usually contribute towards sales and thus can be seen as a type of marketing, while marketing can also help build a positive business image and relationships.

Article by:

Joshua George is the founder of ClickSlice, an SEO Agency based in London, UK.

He has eight years of experience as an SEO Consultant and was recently hired by the UK government for SEO training. Joshua also owns the best-selling SEO course on Udemy, and has taught SEO to over 100,000 students.

His work has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, AgencyAnalytics, Wix and lots more other reputable publications.