Marketing vs. Public Relations – What is the Difference?

public relations

There is a popular misconception that marketing and public relations are the same field. While they share many similarities and can oftentimes get similar results, there are several differentiating factors that set them apart. Without understanding these differences, many businesses find themselves expecting public relations results from marketing plans, and vice versa. 

To make things easier, here is a list of differences between marketing and public relations. With a full understanding of the fields of marketing and public relations, you’ll learn how each are most effective when working together. 



The way that marketers and public relations professionals pitch are very different. From who they are pitching to the content of the pitch, understanding the difference is crucial.  

A marketing pitch is content that is designed to persuade someone to sell or buy a product or service. Therefore, the pitch is given to the consumer of the product, usually in the form of a presentation or an advertisement. 

A public relations pitch, however, is meant for media. Designed to persuade reporters and editors to pick up a story, PR pitches promote your brand differently. PR pitches usually have a specific angle, and require creative crafting and writing. The public relations professional needs to understand how the story idea benefits the reporter and the reporter’s audience. It is not an advertisement, but rather a story idea that features the brand.  



Goals of Field

While overlapping in some areas, marketing and public relations are different fields because they have different goals. 

The purpose of a marketing campaign is primarily to drive traffic, leads, and sales to generate customers and make money. Marketing typically works with a direct business-to-consumer model, in the forms of advertisements. 

The purpose of a public relations campaign is to create, manage, and maintain a reputation with the aim of earning support and goodwill between an organization and its publics. Audiences include not just the consumers of a brand, but other stakeholders as well. These can include competing brands, media, and the general public.  



Measuring ROI

Because marketing and public relations have different goals, they measure ROI differently as well. 

Marketing success is generally easier to measure, as it is looking to directly drive sales. Tracking online advertisement clicks, sales from advertisements, or even overall campaign awareness are easy ways to have hard numbers that translate to success or failure. 

Public relations success is a little trickier to quantify. Because PR has the goal of reputation management and brand awareness, it can be more difficult to truly understand how effective a campaign is. Things like consumer surveys, media impressions, social media mentions, and content analysis are great ways to have qualitative measurements of consumer attitudes after a campaign. While it may not be a direct sales conversion, having favorable opinions of your brand in general is crucial to the success of any company.