PR and Marketing: What’s the difference or are they linked?

  • Difference between public relations and marketing
  • How do public relations agencies and marketing agencies differ?
  • Benefits of PR for businesses
  • Growing importance of influencer marketing

Public Relations, or PR, is a subset of marketing that deals with the way organisations promote themselves and communicate with the public to build a positive image of their brand.

Marketing and PR have similar processes, and while the latter could be considered a separate field, it tends to be a vital element of an overall strategic marketing plan.

How these two communication strategies diverge is through their end goals. For example, PR is more focused on maintaining and cultivating the excellent reputation of a company to the public. In contrast, marketing is concerned with promoting a brand, product or service to generate leads and convert prospects into clients.

PR requires specific expertise and covers a wide range of activities, including:

  • Crisis management
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Media relations
  • Public affair
  • Researching, evaluating and anticipating public opinion

Public relations used to be concerned with plastering your name in print magazines and newspapers. However, the shift to online has triggered a decline in physical media, and as a result of the digital transformation, markets for this media form have become beleaguered.

Companies that are not household names have a better chance of gaining visibility by using digital media forms such as online websites, social media and web pages. However, increasing audience reach usually requires some form of advertising. Most believe that journalists write ads, but they are often created by PR officers and published with little or no editorial input.

That’s not to say that PR strategies are always low in cost. For example, corporate hospitality campaigns are often expensive, encompassing product launches, seminars, exhibitions, conferences, and live events.

You will more than likely need to invest a significant amount of time and money into your PR objectives to achieve your overall marketing goal.

Even if you turn to social media to amplify your brand’s message and generate positive publicity, you could incur costs, particularly if you use influencers to promote products and services, as this usually requires some form of financial exchange.

While some influencers do support brands without demanding some form of compensation, it’s rare for companies to get free PR.

In the age of “money or nothing”, PR comes with a cost. 

Most successful press releases demand some form of investment or promotion to make them newsworthy and exceptional. Investing time and money into capable PR officers should ultimately result in increased respect and brand competence as it supports all areas of your business, including marketing activities.

PR officers should ensure that all brand experiences are consistent and coherent across the channels your business engages with to help build a relationship between your brand, the media and your executives.

Human hand holding megaphone. Social media marketing concept. Vector stock illustration

How do marketing agencies and PR agencies differ?

While both focus on helping building brands and communicating with target audiences, they have different approaches to the same or similar goals.

Although PR officers are likely to incur some costs as part of their work activity, PR agencies tend to focus on free media exposure compared to marketing agencies, which tend to pay for advertising to boost awareness.

The role of a PR agency is to influence your target audience via third party influencers and get a story published about your product or service rather than push sales messages out to your audience.

Public relations officers educate your target market about your product or service to help sales and brand awareness. The approach is less aggressive than methods employed by marketing agencies, which tend to measure the return on investment (ROI) based on how much money a campaign generates.

Still, while PR officers aren’t pushing a sales message, the lines between the two are blurring as the digital landscape evolves, especially now that PR agencies are producing more video and creative content.

PR management is slowly moving away from third-party influencers, and officers are gaining greater control over the content proposed. A specialist PR expert could offer value to a business’s overall marketing strategy as they are skilled in finding new media opportunities and building brand trust.

PR agents also tend to have access to key industry figures, which could help your business level the playing field between competitors.

Public Relations: Goals and objectives

PR’s primary objective is to promote and educate the public about a brand to build awareness, trust, respect, authority and credibility.

Advertising can be costly and ineffective at building or deepening connections with your target audience. On the other hand, PR involves grand narratives that boost brand exposure through various online and offline channels, including social media, print and websites.

However, the rise in social media has made it even more important for brands to be authentic and aware of critical social issues to be successful, especially for millennials.

According to 5WPR’s 2020 Consumer Culture Report, 65% of millennials said they boycotted a brand that opposed their stance on a social issue, while 83% want firms to align with their perspective on social issues.

Meanwhile, 76% of respondents said they want CEOs to speak out on matters they care about, and 62% admitted that they favour products that align with their political and social beliefs.

Difference between online and offline PR

Traditionally, offline PR is a one-way communication channel, whereas online PR is a strategy used to increase awareness of your brand’s presence via online communication channels.

The following types of media are examples of offline PR:

  • Hosted events
  • Magazines
  • Networking
  • Newspapers
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Speaking engagements
  • Sponsorship
  • Trade shows

Meanwhile, online PR channels include:

  • Customer review sites (TripAdvisor, Yelp etc.)
  • Digital magazines
  • Digital newspapers
  • Discussion boards
  • Forums
  • Influencer marketing
  • Online blogs
  • Press releases
  • PR outreach 
  • Social media 
  • Social proofing
  • User-generated content
  • Video content
  • Websites
  • Word of mouth advertising

Benefits of PR outreach

PR outreach is a method your brand could utilise to increase its online presence. Essentially, PR outreach refers to the process of reaching out to journalists, media outlets and influencers who have built an audience to introduce your business, build a relationship and boost brand awareness.

PR outreach is often broken down into three strategies:

  • Guest Posting
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Press Releases

A press release is a short, compelling story sent to targeted media outlets to help give your business exposure on authoritative news channels such as Business Wire and Feedly, which rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Alternatively, you could approach an industry-related journalist and pitch your story to them, as this is also an effective way to build relationships with professionals that cover your niche.

However, note that editors plan their content well in advance, so it could take months before your story is featured in print or online. Time your pitch concept to be published at the desired time to avoid any delays or pitfalls.

How can guest posting help grow your online audience?

Guest posting is publishing a piece of content on someone else’s website or blog, which usually involves approaching lesser-known digital magazine companies and bloggers.

Suppose you’re using it as a strategy to build links and brand authority. In that case, it can be highly effective given the opportunity it creates to position your brand in front of sizable audiences. Most bloggers will also provide “do-follow” backlinks, which will boost the SEO of your site and increase your visibility in SERPs.

Although Google’s algorithm is cracking down on link building to prioritise high-quality backlinks, it should be deemed reliable if your site is linked to bloggers and online magazines that publish relatable high-quality content. Inbound links coming from authoritative websites will, therefore, increase the credibility of your website and boost your position in organic search results.

If you decide to engage in guest posting, we advise publishing content on sites with a domain authority of 70 and above to avoid any headwinds with Google.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is fast becoming the most reliable and effective method of PR outreach as it allows businesses to tap into the followers of well-known figures on social media.

It is a form of advertising that provides brands with a way to market their products or services through endorsements, recommendations and product placement. 

According to a Smart Insights survey, 89% of marketers said that offers a return on investment (ROI) better or comparable to other marketing channels, while only 10% said it is worse.

The most commonly used platforms for influencer marketing include:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • YouTube

One of the many advantages of using social media influencers is tapping into a wider audience of like-minded users, many of which admire or trust the advice of these public figures or media personalities.

However, influencer content needs to be perceived as authentic to be effective. Consumers can tell when an influencer is being disingenuous, and as a result, tend to ignore or distrust the brands they mention if they appear to be lying. 

There is power in authenticity and following a spate of influencer marketing scandals surrounding celebrities and more prominent social media figures, it has become even more important to be transparent to the public.

Unfortunately, influencer marketing has also created a culture of distrust around social media advertising.

So, before diving into this form of marketing, conduct thorough research on the influencers who are most likely to impact your brand positively and evaluate their number of followers, post frequency, any other brands they promote, and their posts engagement level.

Macro influencers

Macro influencers are often celebrities and other well-known social media personalities with more than 100K followers.

They are considered “experts” in their field, albeit many mention brands without knowledge or expertise on a service or product to benefit from the monetary transaction.

Macro influencers offer brands the opportunity to reach millions of people in a short time and often generate millions in media value as they are easier to find on multiple platforms.

Micro influencers

Micro influencers are social media starlets that boast between 10K and 100K followers. These media personalities typically publish more high-quality, consistent content, and as a result, their audience can more easily relate to them and trust their advice.

These social media influencers are considered an authority in their niche and make up for their lack of followers in authentic, relatable content, which tends to hold greater power in driving conversions.

Even well-known brands use micro influencers due to their high engagement rates and effective word-of-mouth advertising.

Nano influencers

These influencers are generally referred to as content creators and have a following of less than 10K. However, that’s not to say that utilising nano influencers would be ineffective as their smaller audiences are often more engaged, active and loyal.

Nano influencers also command lower fees, presenting many advantages given that their recommendations are often perceived as more authentic and genuine.

User-Generated Content (UGC)

User-generated content refers to any form of content – blog, videos, images, audio – created by people rather than brands. It is one of the most cost-effective and likeable PR strategies available, with UGC typically receiving 28% more engagement than branded content.

While the content created by users might not be polished, its power lies in its authenticity, which humanises your brand and helps build credibility and trust. Prospects can see how your brand is benefiting other people and, as a result, are more likely to engage with your product or service.

UGC is often unpaid and unsponsored, and when leveraged effectively, can help grow your audience and improve your SEO, which drives lead generation and increases sales. PR officers can encourage UGC by asking existing customers to leave comments on posts and feedback on a website or review site after purchasing from your company.

Conclusion

So, in a nutshell, public relations is a marketing medium that helps encourage interaction from the community to help establish your brand’s position as an expert in the marketplace.

PR activities play a vital role in identifying and building relationships with influential figures in the industry and the people it serves by creating a favourable impression of your brand and stimulating demand for your products and services.

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