What's the difference between marketing and public relations?

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.


I work with founders and senior leaders in rapid growth businesses. My focus is building resilience, coherence and high performance in teams and organisations to enable sustainable business growth.

57 thoughts on “What's the difference between marketing and public relations?”

  1. It’s the perennial Q for PR people! In my mind I like to think that marketing seeks to exploit a transactional relationship betwwen an org and its markets; PR is about building (2-way) relationships with publics. Does that make any more sense. It gets even more blurred when you decide there’s a key difference between Marcomms PR and PR PR.

  2. Working with both the CIM & CIPR as event managers and having a background in both fields I’ve always felt the disciplines are complimentary and that good marketing can be good PR and vice versa.
    Very tellingly, one of our most popular recent events was a joint CIM / CIPR seminar and it didn’t end up in a punch up!

  3. Thanks for the comments, Simon, Andy and David.
    Simon – that’s a good distinction to make – and I wouldn’t know where to start with marcomms PR vs PR PR. Maybe I’ll learn that when I do the CIPR Diploma!
    Andy – great comment – you could be a diplomat…
    David – interesting thought, which I suppose means that having a “foot in both camps” isn’t a bad thing!

  4. sir i really appreciate both the cleared definition of marketing and PR. but sir can you kindly send me some of the differenciation btw. the two. because i was told by my lectural to write out 20 differences and am able to get some through the above definition and some through my own view.plr send it to my mail box,thanks. bye.

  5. Hi everyone,
    I am in my first year at university studying Public relations. My first assigment is to explain the difference between marketing and pr. I have read all of your comments and I now have a ruff idea. I just wondered if any one would be kind enough to explain it to me in simpler terms as I do not understand some of the words used..sorry am only first year lol I would be very very greatful if someone could explain it to me.

  6. I am a first year stundent studying PR> My first assignment is explain the difference between Marketing and PR. then the difference between the functions and techniques of Public Relations as opposed to the prime facets of Marketing. I have no clue of what to do or say becuase to me they seem to be the same. Looking forward to hearing from you. Hlangi

  7. I came across your website whilst researching the differences between Marketing and Communciations. I am a Exec Search Consultant looking for candidates for an Interim Marketing Director role in the public sector. I am trying to work out whether candidates who have been Directors of Communications/PR are going to be of interest to my client as well as people who have been Directors of Marketing – am slighlty in the dark about this and looking at my google search everyone else is as well.

  8. I am doing public relations for a TV and film production company. There’re still some things that aren’t quite clear to me yet. I am trying to draw the line between marketing and public relations. The info. above is absolutely helpful. I would like to get some more concerning the different tools and strategies that can be used to exercise good PR. Thank you.

    • that’s a broad question Linda! I’d suggest contacting a PR consultant for some advice, reading some relevant PR blogs or thinking about a professional qualification in PR to get you started…

  9. Hello everybody
    Iam at first year of Business Managment (Master degree).
    The article and comments were useful. A simple sample to show the difference between them is when a boy says to his girl that ( Iam a great lover) is marketing. When a friend of the girl tells her that her boy is a great lover is PR

  10. Hi all… I’m a student at Public Relations Institution of South Africa (PRISA) and currently busy with my PR assignment. I need help in differentiating between the techniques and functions of Public Relations.

    • Hy Princess,please help me wit quiz.4 the synergy between PR and Marketing by reffering to the role of PR in the marketing mix and marketing communication.

      • they synergy between public relations and marketing are both essential functions for a modern organization.
        Both public relations practitioners and marketers deal with the organizational relationships and employ similar processes, techniques and strategies but separated by goal. Public relations goal is to reach and maintain settlement with social groups on whom the organization depends in order to achieve its mission. On the other hand marketing has the goal of attracting and satisfying customers on a sustained basis in order to achieve an organization’s economic objectives.
        What I learned while doing this assignment was that public relations and marketing serve different functions, and PR cannot be excellent if it is subjugated to the marketing function. This is because each of them contributes its quota by building and maintaining the different relationships essential for the organization’s survival and growth.

        • Hi Princess
          I have just been trying to come up with a topic for my PH.D. proposal and i wrote down “The Benefits of a PR/Marketing Synergy”. Your comments has given me great guidance. Please if you can help me with more infor, kindly email me – kmoono@mail.com.
          Be Blessed!!!

  11. Dear sir
    Please can you help me i’m little bit lost here i have to do this assignment i do’nt know were to start , Discuss the differance between the functions and techniqius of public relations as oppose to to the prime facets of marketing .

  12. Hello,
    I have been going through all the comments. I am unable to clearly understand your comments’ explanation of the difference between the functions and techniques of public relations as opposed to the prime facets of marketing.
    Can anyone out there assist in terms of clearly and plainly expalining them.
    Thanks for your contribution.

  13. Hi all! Actually, I do not see the big difference between marketing and PR, I mean that I treat PR as a 6th to 5 P’s which were mentioned by Koler. You see: Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People and Public Relations. I work as a PR pro, but I dayly solving my companys marketing issues. So, my point is that we can’t distinguish them.

  14. sir could u please help me about the comparison of public relations and marketing in which fields or aspects do they relate.
    thanks in advance

  15. Hey all.
    I trying to make a break into PR however I am 27 years old. I graduated 5 years ago and have recently come back from a years travel. I have been trying to apply with little success. My experience in PR is around 6 months. I am still open to working in MarComs due to the uncertainty of the market and my lack of knowledge (at this stage) of how the jigsaw fits together.
    With around 1 year in Market Research and Print Marketing I know I can learn and be a valuable addition given the opportunity. Are there any tips which you can throw at me or just remind that it is not too late to start a career in such an industry!
    What do you think?

  16. hello all,
    im trying to decide which of the diplomas will be suitable for me– CIM Diploma or CIPR Diploma
    I have a MA Communication Studies and i’ve worked as a business development personnel and relationship manager for 2 years now.
    I Want a leap in my career and will like to move into corporate communications/ corporate affairs.
    Thank you

  17. I am a first year student aswell studing public relations and we were assigned to explain the difference between public relations and various parts of business..I have chosen 1 reply I was able to understand and I thank you for your help and thumbs up to this website!!
    thank you.

  18. Good day
    Please help with some answers on the following:
    differences between public relations and Marketing lies in their respective goals and functions.
    Compare the difinition of pubilc to the difinition of marketing.
    Expain the functions and techniquesof public relations as opposed to the prime facets of marketing.
    Explain the synergy between public relations and marketingby reffering to the role of public relationsin the marketing mix and marketing communication.
    The differences public relations and marketing.
    Hope you will find my email understandable.
    Best regards
    Sindiswa Dabula 072 6335277.

  19. Marketing is the business function that manages the relationship between an organisation – generally a provider of products/services – and its markets/consumers. (Other typical functions that look after other areas would include Production, R&D, Personnel, Finance, etc.)
    Marketing covers many different aspects, including all the ‘P’s, one of which is Promotion (or Marketing Communications (MarComs) – the means by which an organisation communicates its messages, in the most effective/cost-effective ways, to its various markets/audiences in order to achieve its marketing objectives.
    A typical MarComs strategy for a blue chip manufacturer might involve the use of a number of ‘channels’: advertising, public relations, sales promotion, direct marketing, e-DM, web, events, etc.
    PR, therefore, is one aspect of marketing communications, but without formulating the broader marketing (and brand) strategy, and establishing key objectives and a coherent strategy, PR lacks direction of message and a focused target audience, often becoming ‘promoting’ in general way (throw enough paint around and some might stick!)
    The fact that PR is one particular facet of marketing does not undervalue its importance – it’s just as important as all of the other facets, and requires specific skills in order for it to be effective.
    Hope that helps.

    • PR Is the management through communication of perceptions and strategic relationships between an organization and its internal and external stakeholders.

  20. I am on the first day of a PR course and would like to know who to email all my coursework to so that I don’t have to do any research.

  21. Hi Simon,
    Great website! It’s really interesting reading all the comments from other PR and Marketing professionals. I’ve worked in PR for a number of years now and have thought about moving in to marketing. I just wondered whether Marketing in as target driven as PR is (with the need to get x amount of coverage in x publications)? I imagine there will be targets in Marketing, but with a budget to support campaigns, is it as results orientated.
    In my current job I have to achieve several pieces of coverage for each of my clients. This is a great pressure and can lead to a very repetitve work pattern. Is Marketing more varied (i.e PR can feel like constant selling to journalists and mailouts).
    Also, I would be interested to hear whether it is quite easy to make the move from PR to Marketing, and Marketing to PR in an age were recruiters want specialists (i.e Luxury Lifestyle PRs or Digital Marketing Executives)?
    Thank you.

  22. Public relations seeks to enhance the mutual understanding between an organization and its publics: suppliers, officials, unions, employees, neighbours, politicians, shareholders and oh yes, clients. Making ‘good works well known’ to as many publics as possible. It creates a web consisting of communication lines around the firm and makes sure all lines are kept alive and clean.
    Marketing concentrates on the exchange between the firm as supplier and its clients, making sure it meets & keeps meeting their demands and expectations. PR creates a favorable environment where marketing can do a successful job. When working together, they form a great strategic team. As PR might be considered a P in the marketing mix, Marketing might be seen as one of the sources of the company’s good (or bad) name or reputation.

  23. Please,I thinking that the difference will. much, I will you to more about the difference between public relation and marketing, am it as my project. Please you can to it to my my email.

  24. Thanks for the different explanations on pr and marketing very well explained only a thick head wouldn’t understand the difference.

  25. loek hopstaken. Tanks 4 enlighten me abt d pr & marketing, i wud more appreciate it more if u can send me more on public relations to my email

  26. Hi Simon,
    Great Blog! I am starting my own marketing and PR consultancy firm and came across your blog while trying to put a price package together for clients and the different services I can provide. I have a diploma in Marketing and PR and have worked in all spheres from Event management to sales and staff training. Can you give me some kind of a quideline for what products i can offer distinctively.
    Many thanks, look forward to hearing from you.

  27. Great Blog!
    Can you help me out here, how does public relations form part of the company policy and organisation? am struggling a bit here and would really appreciate your assistance.
    Looking forward to hearing from you!

  28. Pr is mostly focused with both publics reffering to both internal and external publics, but this is different with marketing which mostly it focuses to the external public

  29. Basically Marketing deals with products circulation while PR is much engaged into societies[publics]to form good relationship and manage corporate image of the company.

  30. I already have a diploma in Public Relations, I am however interested in Digital Public Relations and Social Media. Are there any courses available in South Africa?

  31. Hi, I would like to know where it would be ideal for me to study Public Relations. I have been looking for university’s that have this module or degree but I have failed miserably. Please help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tired of studying for something I don’t need……….Thank You.

  32. I like this forum
    I hold a PR diploma .. this kind of discussions benefits me a lot
    I also can share whatever reading sources i might come across
    Nice topic … good luck

  33. Hi guys indeed useful site I’m studying PR at Unisa I would like to know between the private and public sector where are vast opportunities in South Africa

  34. Interesting piece. I don’t hugely like the industry definition that “Public relations is a strategic management function that adds value to an organisation by helping it to manage its reputation”. It sounds like wishful thinking, rather than reality. After all, there are lots of people doing PR who aren’t in management.
    I prefer the definition used by Morris and Goldsworthy: “PR is the planned persuasion of people to behave in ways that further its sponsor’s objectives. It works primarily through the use of media relations and other forms of third party endorsement.”

  35. HI Simon
    I am student of PR and want some advice please reshape my detestation topic .
    But how can i reshape my topic? how does reputation works in very crowded market in PR implication????

  36. I’m now fully convinced dah there is a difference between marketing Nd PR though dey might b sum little similar bah I guess de difference given above x ohk to distinguish dem. Thanks do much


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