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  • Writer's pictureKayla McPherson

PR and marketing, like peanut butter and jelly

Updated: Oct 6, 2022

As technology advances and social media presence becomes commonplace, utilizing public relations (PR) and marketing teams is becoming essential for companies. Some will claim that the success of a company is more dependent on its marketing department than its PR team. Others will argue the opposite. These arguments prompt compelling possibilities to be considered: Could a company be successful in marketing without the aid of PR? Or, could a company find success using PR strategies while disregarding marketing?

When asked to give a general definition for both PR and marketing, Aubrey Nodarse Christensen, Director Of Marketing And Public Relations for Boyish, an ethical and sustainable jeans company, explained that PR focuses on press and publications, whereas marketing is a direct form of contact between you and your consumer, using a variety of methods to reach them.

With this definition in mind, it is important to note that PR and marketing have both similarities and differences. To understand how PR and marketing complement and enhance one another, it can be helpful to compare the two.

How are PR and marketing similar?

PR and marketing both focus their efforts on storytelling, whether telling the story of a brand, person or product. The two also deal with increasing awareness, creating content and building relationships. These similarities help explain why there is often such a blurred line and confusion between both career paths.

According to Leah Brown, a freelance PR and marketing consultant in San Diego, "PR and marketing have similar goals of increasing awareness, sales, and consumers.” In Brown’s case, her work overlaps when brainstorming and working with internal teams on upcoming news as she creates strategic plans and conducts media outreach.

How are PR and marketing different?

Many will argue that an important distinction between PR and marketing is that the former focuses on promotion whereas the latter is concerned with selling. As a result, both fields measure success in different ways.

Nodarse Christensen explains that whereas PR is more focused on press and publications outreach, marketing is direct to the consumer. She explains, “The difference is that you’re focusing on publications on one side and you're direct to consumer on the other side. Different approaches and different audiences. The ‘who’ is more so talking to your own audience (marketing) vs. the publications audience (PR).”

Which is more valuable?

So the question then becomes, for the greatest success of a company, is one more important than the other?

As noted by Brown, a company may use marketing without PR, but the campaigns and marketing efforts will not be as successful or impactful without the media coverage and earned awareness that PR generates. On the other hand, she explains that without a marketing team, marketing tasks become an expectation for the PR team to assume responsibility for and implement. This can be a pain point because the PR team may not be prepared to execute marketing strategies. Similar to Brown, Nodarse Christensen remarks that it is possible to have a company with just a PR or a marketing team, but says it is beneficial for them to be done together, because it’s branding through and through. At the end of the day, PR and marketing are both critical components to an organization to help them build a positive image.

By Kayla McPherson

Kayla McPherson is a junior at San Diego State University from the East Bay Area. She is majoring in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations, and minoring in both Marketing and Spanish. Kayla is set to graduate next May, and she hopes to focus her career on marketing. This summer she will be working for Cox Communications as a marketing and sales intern.

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