back to top

Public relations versus marketing

April, 2016

What is the difference between public relations and marketing? Erica Jones of Kent PR and marketing agency Maxim explains.

One of the biggest confusions I encounter when talking to people about my job is helping them understand the difference between public relations and marketing – aren’t they the same thing?

In the loosest possible sense, yes the two do have the same goal. But only in the same way you’d compare joining a gym with going on a diet: both have the aim of being healthier, but go about it in different ways.

What is the difference?

It’s not quite as black and white as this, but basically marketing is about blatantly telling people X is great, whereas public relations is about gently encouraging people to come to that conclusion themselves.

The key is in the phrasing: public relations is about developing relations with the public, whereas marketing advertises your product to the market. Confused?

Here’s an example

I’m about to open Erica’s Bookshop and I want everyone to know about it and choose to spend their money with me instead of in more well-known, established outlets. If I choose to market my new venture I’ll put up posters, post leaflets and take out adverts in every available outlet, telling people the bookshop is coming to town, what its opening times will be and making it look as attractive as possible to my new community.

If I instead take the public relations route I’ll probably do all of the above, but I’ll also begin to gradually develop a relationship with my community.

Public relations

To begin with there might be some public affairs work if my bookshop needs to go through any kind of planning review. This would include starting to develop good community relations as I’d reach out to the public, engaging with my future neighbours and customers, letting them know my plans.

There are many ways to go about this, but they’d include putting on and attending events, sponsoring local projects and developing a relationship with the media. In particular, this would include arranging interviews, making sure my name was known by the journalists, offering comments and articles about the book trade and anything else I could reasonably be involved with.

Essentially, I’d be doing my best to ensure my bookshop’s name appears within the text of the newspaper/programme on television as well as the (marketing) adverts I’ve paid for.

I’d also throw a brilliant launch party and continue to engage with my community once the bookshop was open, through all the methods listed above and not forgetting social media.

Keeping up the good work

This is all ongoing public relations to remind people of my bookselling skills and help ensure my bookshop becomes and continues to be a recognised name. These steps should also hopefully save me from ever needing to go down the path of reputation management.

Finally, after a year (I like to be optimistic), my excellent customer service and business sense, supported by ongoing public relations, would mean my bookshop was such a success I’d be opening new outlets in all the nearby towns. To maintain the good image across this chain it would be time to engage in some corporate communications, helping my staff to engage with the company ethos and ensuring every Erica’s Bookshop meets the high standards I require.

This is a very simple outline of the work that goes into public relations, and the marketing aspect it includes. Both focus on the positives of the product or service, however a bit like going to the gym, public relations requires continued effort if your good work is to be maintained.

Erica Jones - Account Director

Erica Jones

Maxim / Account Director

posted in: advice, marketing, media relations, public relations, reputation management, social media,

we'd love to work with you

get in touch