How — and Why — We Define PR and Marketing for Ourselves
We’ve been asked many times over the years about how our work in PR overlaps with marketing. It’s a legitimate question — the lines can be quite blurry these days — but we’ve never really had a set answer. For a firm that prides itself on effectively communicating the services of others, we knew this had to change. We recently sat down to define PR and marketing for ourselves, and we wanted to share our definitions of the terms and how we use them.
While perhaps cliche, it is always useful to start with the actual definition of a word. According to the dictionary (OK, lexico.com), marketing is “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising,” while public relations is “the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.” We also like the definition from PRSA: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
How do these definitions tie in with the services we provide to our clients? It’s a matter of separate, albeit often complementary, goals and responsibilities. Marketing is more about addressing the nuances of specific products and the value proposition as a whole, whereas PR is about increasing the credibility and visibility of the organization and its thought leaders.
In terms of responsibilities, marketing is responsible for converting to sales, whereas PR is responsible for the overall reputation of the firm. That’s not to say that PR cannot help sales — it can, it should, and it quite often does. But PR looks at things more holistically.
We like to think of this in terms of an analogy: if marketing is a billboard, PR is the scaffolding holding up the billboard. Marketing is telling the world about a product that they should consider. But without the scaffolding — a company with a reputation for integrity, expertise, and honesty — that billboard would fall down. Most people may not pay attention to the scaffolding, but it holds up everything they are seeing.
So if PR and marketing are defined by their goals and responsibilities, notice what does not define these terms: the tactics themselves. Yes, traditional media relations is strongly associated with PR, and for good reason. But take, for example, a blog post. Write a blog post promoting the features of a new trading platform? Marketing. Write a blog post from the CEO taking a stance on an important industry issue? PR. Blog posts, videos, social media, you name it: none of those are inherently PR or marketing, it’s all about to what end they are used.
With the terms defined, we could then examine how they relate to our work at 3Points. We are a PR firm, and have been since our founding. However, we have grown our marketing skill set over the years, and can confidently step in on marketing projects when needed as well. We pride ourselves on flexibility and being able to adapt to whatever any given client needs, and that is partially why we chose the broad term “communications” as part of our company name. We want to help our clients communicate their messages both internally or externally, whether marketing or PR-oriented.
That said, we tend to work best when we can collaborate with a marketing contact, or a marketing team, on the client’s team. By dedicating resources to both PR and marketing, and by having our internal contact(s) coordinate efforts, we can make sure our clients not only have great billboards, but that those billboards are strong and well-positioned enough to make a long-lasting impact.