The Tug of War Between Marketing And PR [Chart]

Marketing & PR Compared

There’s a tug of war going on between marketing and PR over who owns which functions in today’s ever expanding media marketplace.

The expansion of social media and content marketing in the overall marketing and communications mix has blurred the distinctions between marketing and PR further. As a result, the way these functions are handled can depend on the manager’s skillset.

Marketing as defined by Philip Kotler encompasses the entire process of creating value to satisfy a need. It covers the entire purchase process from product idea to post-purchase customer advocacy. Marketing, by its nature, is both strategic and tactical. By contrast, PR is focused on communications and crafting strategic messages. Since both marketing and PR are strategic in outlook, there’s potential for overlap and conflict over responsibilities.  (Here’s what 11 professionals say about the differences between marketing and PR.)

Let’s look at the differences between marketing and PR when you put them into action in your organization.

Marketing & PR Compared

Attributes Marketing PR
Business goal Build brands,
Acquire customers,
Drive sales,
Support purchasing,
Embrace fans.
Build brands,
Attract customers,
Establish corporate &/or executive positioning.
Target market Prospects,
Past customers & Public.
Employees & Public.
Branding Defines brand,
Ensures all communications & marketing embody core brand elements.
Creates recognition via company name & media association.
Offer/ promotions Creates promotional calendar across product, brand & media,
Determines pricing policy.
Doesn’t apply.
Media platforms Leverages internal platforms (email, website, blog, letters, catalogs, etc.,)
Uses third party media to spread marketing message via advertising & content creation,
Engages with target audience & public on social media.
Supports organizational engagement on social media,
Places messages with journalists on third party media.
Content marketing Creates content marketing on company, products, and employees. Communicates organizational messages on third party media,
Supports social media engagement.
Purchase process Provides marketing at every step of the process across media,
Ensures marketing is findable (SEO)
Helps build awareness.
Search optimization Determines SEO strategy,
Creates content marketing where appropriate to support SEO.
Indirectly helps search optimization via press mentions.
Social media Creates appropriate content to share
engages with prospects, customers & public.
Creates appropriate communications,
Supports public engagement.
Metrics Branding metrics,
Number of prospects & customers,
Social shares.
Crisis management Provides established internal media platforms,
Has social media followings to respond as media entity,
Supports crisis management with advertising & appropriate content marketing.
Implements crisis management plan.

© 2012 Heidi Cohen – Riverside Marketing Strategies – All rights reserved

With the rise of social media, PR’s role in an organization’s communications has expanded. When PR is used effectively it can help generate sales, but it’s marketing that creates, manages and executes the organization’s plans to develop products and persuade customers to buy them.

Is there anything else that you’d add to this chart in terms of categories or points? If so, what are they?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Here are some related articles to help you.

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6 Responses to The Tug of War Between Marketing And PR [Chart]

  1. Rick Murray says:

    With respect, the fact that you separate the two this way is mind boggling. It’s marketing defending a ground that has shifted so radically in the past decade as to render these definitions both incomplete and obsolete. Yes, I’m in the PR business, but I don’t for a minute cede the sole responsibility to acquire customers, etcm, to some siloed “marketing” type.

    Rick Murray

    • HeidiCohen says:


      Thank you for sharing your perspective. I agree that the marketing-media landscape has evolved. The change started with the dotcom boom when new firms needed to rapidly build their name and used the array of PR tools to help them. Further, marketing and PR have evolved with the birth and growth of social media, an area where both functions engage. 

      While I agree PR can build brand acquire customers (as stated in the chart) through its external communications and engagement, PR doesn’t convert prospects to customers, keep them purchasing and celebrate them as fans and advocates through internal/owned meda and other platforms.

      Marketing in today’s corporation isn’t siloed. Rather marketing should be integrated across the organization to support both internal and external communications. 

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

    • Rick Murray says:

      Hi Heidi,

      PR as you define it may not be able to do that, but PR as we now practice it at Edelman very much can and does. I do believe we’re seeing a radical graying of the lines between above and below the line; between advertorial and editorial; and between who is best suited to engage a company’s various stakeholders in paid, owned, earned and social platforms. The jury is clearly still out, but we’re placing our bet on a space which as yet defies any traditional definition. Love to chat with you about it sometime.Cheers, Rick

  2.  Great insights about SEO and good to know about actual but meaningful examples of marketing issues.

  3. Maria D. says:

    Hi, I would also add that SEO is boosted by SEO-optimized press releases, which are viewed as an important source by search engines (in addition to SEO via press mentions).

    • HeidiCohen says:

      Maria–Good point. I agree optimized press releases are important. Also include links to product information where appropriate. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen