Four people sit around a white conference room table covered with several papers printed with charts in various colors. The papers are surrounded by post-it notes. Two of the people at the table, a man and a woman, lean forward and point to two different charts. The man sitting between them looks thoughtful, with a hand on his chin. Across the table, another man leans forward to look at the charts.
Among the differences between PR and marketing are the metrics they follow. PR looks at reputation and public opinion, while marketing considers sales numbers and ROI. — Getty Images/scyther5

Some people confuse public relations (PR) and marketing, but they are not the same thing. PR focuses on creating a positive image for the company, while marketing is focused on selling products or services. Let’s look at some differences between PR and marketing and where the two departments overlap.

[Read more: Public Relations vs. Public Affairs: What’s the Difference?]

What is PR?

Public relations is the practice of maintaining a positive public image for a company, organization or individual. The PR department focuses on building mutually beneficial relationships between the company and the media.

Here are some of the main functions of PR:

  • Reputation management.
  • Media relations.
  • Events.
  • Brand journalism.

Another critical function of PR is dealing with negative press. If the company is involved in a negative story, the PR department needs to do damage control. This usually involves either putting a positive spin on the story or issuing an apology on behalf of the company.

What is marketing?

Marketing involves selling products or services and finding ways to deliver value for the company’s customers and audience. There are many different marketing strategies, including:

  • Content marketing.
  • Email marketing.
  • Social media marketing.
  • Influencer marketing.

Through these various forms of marketing, the audience is introduced to a product or service that solves a problem they have. Over time, that audience begins to form a relationship with the company and may eventually become a customer.

PR and marketing have different objectives, but there are some inevitable overlaps between the two departments.

What is the difference between PR and marketing?

The main difference between the two terms is that marketing focuses on selling products, while PR focuses on maintaining the company’s positive reputation. Here are some of the biggest differences between PR and marketing:

  • Daily activities: For the most part, marketing and PR professionals spend their time in very different ways. You can often find PR professionals writing press releases, pitching positive stories about the company and building media relationships. Marketing professionals spend their time planning for product launches, creating marketing campaigns and conducting client research.
  • Audience: Another difference between the two departments is the audience they reach. The PR department speaks to different audiences depending on the company's needs. For instance, they may create a positive outreach with the media, company stakeholders or even employees. In comparison, the marketing department is focused mainly on reaching customers and prospects.
  • Goals: When the PR and marketing departments approach their jobs, they have very different goals in mind. PR is focused on creating a positive image for the company and building a positive relationship with the company’s various stakeholders, whereas marketing focuses on reaching customers and prospects and increasing sales for the company.
  • Metrics of success: Another key distinction between marketing and PR is how both departments measure success. PR professionals consider whether or not they effectively created a positive buzz for the company. In comparison, marketing might look at whether a product met its sales goals or the ROI from a recent campaign.

[Read more: Marketing Your E-Commerce Business in the Digital Age]

Where do the two overlap?

PR and marketing have different objectives, but there are some inevitable overlaps between the two departments. That’s because the success of one department really hinges on the success of the other.

For instance, the marketing team will have a hard time increasing sales if the company has poor brand awareness. Or, if the company receives a lot of negative press, sales may decline in response.

Social media marketing is an activity that both departments often utilize. That’s because social media can be used to build brand awareness and to carry out targeted marketing campaigns.

The point is that these two departments cannot exist in silos — the best thing your company can do is to align both strategies. This will allow you to maximize your efforts at both and build positive relationships with your target audience.

[Read more: 6 Ways to Use Social Media for Public Relations]

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