February 15, 2023

What’s the Difference Between PR and Marketing?

Public Relations and Marketing are both integral parts of any successful communication strategy: however, they are often (and incorrectly) thought of as interchangeable. In the communications context, PR and Marketing are complementary disciplines that both strive to promote a brand and create a positive relationship with the public. There are key differences between the practices that are important to understand when building out your organization’s communications strategy.

Marketing is concerned with promoting products or services through multiple channels (i.e. advertising, sales promotions, etc.) to sway customers’ behavior and influence purchasing with the direct goal of increasing profits.

On the other hand, Public Relations is the practice of maintaining a positive public perception of a brand through its relationship with various stakeholders. PR efforts manage the communication channels between a business and the public through carefully cultivating relationships and reputation.

In the simplest of terms, Marketing is focused on selling your brand to the public, and PR is focused on your brand’s relationships with its audiences. Let’s dive deeper into the differences across a few key areas:

Authentic Communication

There are two routes in which brands can reach their target audience: directly from the brand to the consumer through marketing efforts, or from the brand, through a trusted opinion leader, to the consumer through PR efforts.

Both disciplines rely on creating authentic, trusted relationships, but the difference lies in whom that trust is built between. At Olive Public Relations, we work to create reliable relationships with the media, while Marketers strive to create that relationship directly with the consumer. For example, if a beauty brand is launching a new mascara, we will work to get the story of the new launch out to journalists, offer interviews with spokespeople and experts, and offer products for testing so that editors can build their own opinion about the brand/product. In turn, editors will pass their trusted opinion on to their audience. On the other hand, Marketers ensure the messaging in their consumer-facing materials (like website copy and social media advertisements) is true and trustworthy, but consumers ultimately must trust the brand to believe the marketing messaging.

Marketing communication has total control of the message, while PR aims to influence the message that is then disseminated by the media. Because the message isn’t so strictly controlled and curated by the company, PR can often result in greater audience trust. For example, when we secure an editorial feature in a magazine written by a trusted editor, consumers are much more likely to believe the message than when it has a “paid promotion” disclaimer.

Financial Investment

One major difference between the two practices is financial investment. PR efforts are focused on earning media coverage for initiatives, products, and spokespeople. In truly traditional PR, there is no financial exchange between the business and the outlet on which its messages are amplified. While this landscape is shifting with the advent of digital media, Marketing campaigns are typically a lot more expensive because they can involve advertising spend, paid partnerships, and sponsorships. At Olive Public Relations we handle traditional Public Relations and offer guidance into other marketing avenues working hand in hand with internal marketing teams.


PR is often an exercise in patience, while clever marketing can deliver immediate sales results. As we’ve mentioned before, success in PR is built on trust, and as we all know, trust is earned. Success in PR depends on storytelling, newsworthiness, and relationships. It often takes time to achieve the perfect storm of PR momentum, but the authenticity that comes through a successful PR campaign is something that simply can’t be bought.

Goals & Metrics

The goals of PR and Marketing are fundamentally different. Marketing strives to increase profit by creating the need for a product or service to drive leads and sales. At Olive Public Relations we work with our media contacts to earn trust and positive sentiment with the public and craft a brand’s image, which can ultimately lead to sales and profit over time, but it isn’t the immediate goal.

Another key difference between the two is how success is measured. In marketing, key performance indicators (KPIs) are more easily evaluated, particularly in digital marketing, where a click of a button can generate a sale. In PR, these metrics are debated – sentiment, share of voice, equivalent ad spend, and social media reach are often used to determine the success of a PR campaign, however, there is no silver bullet quantitative metric to measure PR success.

But wait…what about Social and Digital Media?

The differences between traditional marketing and PR used to be cut and dry, but with the advent of social media, affiliate marketing, and multi-channel campaigns, the lines have blurred, necessitating a symbiotic relationship between the two practices. When brands started engaging with influential creators, social media fell under the umbrella of PR. Fundamentally, these key opinion leaders (KOLs) acted as a trusted conduit between brands and the public. PR pros engaged with influencers to disseminate a brand’s message on an unpaid basis, much like the relationships with editors at a magazine. Now that the social media landscape has evolved and many of the opportunities to engage with KOLs and influencers involve a financial commitment on the brand’s end, paid work with KOLs falls under the umbrella of Influencer Marketing.

Another change in the media landscape is the advent of affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is an online tool that financially rewards publishers for driving sales. Today, publishers and influencers utilize affiliate marketing to recoup lost revenue as a result of the changing publishing industry. Affiliate marketing is a powerful tool in PR because it makes your brand more attractive to publishers and influencers when they can earn a commission off the feature – a win-win for everyone. Affiliate marketing has become ubiquitous in online media, so much so that publishers will often require affiliate links for a feature. PR pros work hard to maintain relationships with the media, and affiliate relationships only help the success of these connections, resulting in more exposure for brands.

In today’s media landscape, PR and Marketing are complementary practices, and the secret sauce to create a successful product, company, or launch depends on both disciplines working in harmony.

Olive is a national boutique Public Relations firm with a specialty in marketing, social media, and branding. We offer businesses an all-in-one approach to creating a successful and synergistic communications strategy.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch to learn more about how Olive can help illuminate the greatness that exists in your business.