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Published on April 24th, 2007 | by Simon Wakeman


What’s the difference between marketing and public relations?

At a workshop session yesterday I was asked what was the difference between marketing and public relations.

A good few years ago the answer would have been that marketing was paid-for exposure under a company’s direct control, while public relations was free exposure.

But that answer misses so many of the differences that it’s not really valid. Let’s have a look at some trade body definitions for the two professions:

Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably. (Chartered Institute of Marketing)

Marketing is the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals. (American Marketing Association)

Public relations is a strategic management function that adds value to an organisation by helping it to manage its reputation. (Chartered Institute of Public Relations)

Once you cut through the business jargon that shrouds these definitions, what’s left?

Marketing has at its core a desire to reach consumers and make them think, believe or do what you want. Public relations is more focussed on influencing reputation, whether corporate or personal.

This graphic from Ads of the World sums it up nicely.

The two professions are clearly complementary – a strongly positive reputation makes the marketer’s job easier, while marketing activity affects a company’s reputation.

If you ever want to infuriate a public relations professional, suggest that public relations is part of marketing.

While the PR function in a company is often managed within a broader marketing division, this is usually for logistic management reasons rather than because PR skills are a subset of marketing skills.

Those organisations that have the most effective communications are those that don’t get hung up on what’s marketing and what’s public relations.

Instead they focus on choosing the most appropriate tool for delivering their objectives, regardless of which toolbox it comes from.

This article originally appeared on Simon Wakeman’s communications, marketing and public relations blog at

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About the Author

I write on my blog about all kinds of things. Mostly it's focussed on communications, marketing and digital stuff - as that's what I spend my days doing and evenings thinking about. But sometimes I'll cover running, mountain biking, road biking or geeky gadgets too.

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  • About Simon

    Simon WakemanSimon is Agency Director at digital agency Deeson and writes for the agency blog on all things digital.

    He’s a CIPR and CIM qualified digital, communications and marketing professional with experience working across the full communications mix in the public and private sectors.

    Outside work he enjoys running, road cycling, mountain biking, caravanning and generally being outdoors. Simon is married with two children, has two energetic dogs and lives near Canterbury, Kent.

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