Gini Dietrich

Public Relations vs. Marketing

By: Gini Dietrich | August 8, 2011 | 
295

Last week I violated the rules of the Network of PR Professionals LinkedIn group.

I didn’t mean to, but, according to the group “rules,” you can only post things in there that are about traditional PR.

But I posted the summary of Marcus Sheridan’s webinar about the types of content you can create to generate leads. And, because the blog post said “generate inbound leads” instead of “attract Web site visitors” or “increase brand awareness,” I broke the rules.

You see, I believe a few things:

  1. Public relations (not publicity) can and should be measured to sales results;
  2. Public relations professionals need to gain some basic marketing skills or our industry will become defunct;
  3. Public relations is the very best place for content development because we are, after all, writers; and
  4. Really good content does more than attract Web site visitors or increase brand awareness – it generates inbound leads for the sales team.

If you know me well, you know that my being scolded over breaking the rules of any kind is mortifying to me. So, I apologized, said I understood the rules, and that I wouldn’t do it again.

But the conversation didn’t end there.

The email’s author said:

I agree with you that generating content – especially in the digital age – is a primary function of any PR department or campaign. Really good marketing copy is essential for any organization that wishes to engage with visitors to its Web site, blog, Facebook page, etc., and get them to bite on various calls-to-action within the content.

But marketing in not PR. An ideal PR objective specifies desired outcomes within target publics, such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes, and behavior. None of these are sales functions.

So here we are – a traditional PR guy and me at an impasse.

I grew up in the traditional PR world, so I get it. But I also see some big changes coming in our industry. Changes that mean companies will work only with agencies and consultants who can measure their work to sales results.

As much as I love the work I’ve always done, it’s impossible to measure “increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes, and behavior” to revenue. Sure, we know intuitively that it works and we also know that, without PR, a brand or company will suffer because there are no communication about it.

But it can’t be measured. Not in a hard numbers kind of way.

Integrated traditional PR, digital media, and some basic marketing, though, can be measured. Sometimes in as little as 60 days.

So should creating content that generates inbound leads be left to the marketing folks because their function is to help sales? Or can PR be responsible for it, as well?

If it’s the latter, what’s the harm in discussing it with our peers around the world, via a LinkedIn group, so we all become better professionals that know how to change with the times?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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295 Comments on "Public Relations vs. Marketing"

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KenMueller
4 years 11 months ago
When we define our tasks so narrowly, we paint ourselves into a corner and have a hard time getting out. The entire communications process is a collaborative, fully integrated process, and regardless of your task or “department”, we should all be working for a common purpose. And I see the same thing in LinkedIn. I posted something in a non-profit marketing group once and was chastised because my topic dealt with businesses. I thought, and still do, that the concepts in that particular post, carried over nicely, but since I didn’t specifically mention non-profits in the post, I was rejected.… Read more »
Ameena Falchetto
Ameena Falchetto
4 years 11 months ago
Labels labels! Ouf! I don’t think anyone, unless they are from a traditional Marketing OR PR background can ever tell you the difference between the 2. Does the difference really matter? When it comes to sales which is the end result who cares?I’ve always believed that Marketing and/or PR are one of those areas where measurability is a grey area which is the reason so many companies will slash their budgets. PR “purists” should retreat back to the lecture theatre and discuss 10 year old traditional cases studies and stop pretending they are informed about what’s going on today and… Read more »
John Falchetto
4 years 11 months ago
Gini I think you are right and it don’t agree with the narrow definition of PR in your LinkedIn group. Any business function should ne tied to one thing, generate sales. Increasing traffic and awareness are useless if they don’t increase sales. For any business to exist and have a budget to spend on PR, it needs sales. If we relate this to a brick and mortar business, it’s like saying I want more people to come to my store and learn about my products but not buy stuff. The ‘traditional PR guy’ misses a point when he says he… Read more »
Soulati | PR
4 years 11 months ago
Fascinating happenstance and very sad. As I’ve been suggesting, rather vehemently, “traditional” no longer belongs in our vocabulary to define what we in PR do. Those insistent on staying the course are a dying breed; it will be a rude awakening for them to figure it out after the fact. That said, the road ahead is rocky at best. Marketing holds the direct line to sales. I recently was contacted by a sales person because she had seen my work and wanted to see if I could help her in a new sales capacity. Very interesting opportunity that went no… Read more »
ScottHepburn
ScottHepburn
4 years 11 months ago
I think the bigger question is why any PR pro would feel it’s worth the time and effort to call you out on this. Don’t we have bigger fish to fry? I see the value of thought leadership, networking, conversation and everything else we do via social channels. Heck, I’m part of that ecosystem. But does getting all nit-picky and busting your balls over this really make any sense? Now that the cherished integrity of the LinkedIn Group has been preserved, what social good has been achieved? I tend to agree with you on the “PR needs to think more… Read more »
T60Productions
4 years 11 months ago

“An ideal PR objective specifies desired outcomes within target publics, such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes, and behavior.”

In the case of a business, don’t all of those desired outcome examples end up back at sales?

–Tony Gnau

samfiorella
samfiorella
4 years 11 months ago

“In times of change, learners will inherit the earth,

while the learned will find themselves well-equipped

to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

– Eric Hoffer

samfiorella
samfiorella
4 years 11 months ago

“In times of change, learners will inherit the earth,

while the learned will find themselves well-equipped

to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

– Eric Hoffer

KenMueller
4 years 11 months ago

@T60Productions and HR…and manufacturing…and accounting…etc. When did we become so fractured? And perhaps this is the reason why so many companies seem bloated in some areas, yet don’t perform well. The more fractured we become, the more difficult INTERNAL communications becomes, and therefore the entire process breaks down.

Dang, now I have to find a way to use all that in a post for my own blog.

bryanwillmert
bryanwillmert
4 years 11 months ago

How dare you @ginidietrich! lol.. It feels like we are in a place where PR is merging into levels of marketing which is having strings in social media and then into sales. Its like it is becoming one big cluster.. Guess we have to find a way to get along! 🙂

bdorman264
4 years 11 months ago
Huh? I think my head just started hurting when I read that. I guess I just ‘don’t get it, but why would someone call you out over something like that. It certainly isn’t that black and white. I won’t junk up your post because I don’t know the strict delineation (I hope I used that word ok, it was my word of the day) between PR and marketing. The only red flag I saw was this comment: As much as I love the work I’ve always done, it’s impossible to measure “increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes, and… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
4 years 11 months ago
But marketing in not PR. An ideal PR objective specifies desired outcomes within target publics, such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes, and behavior. None of these are sales functions. OMG This statement he might as well take an M-16 and blow his head apart. MARKETING is desired outcomes within target publics such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, change of opinions, attitudes, and behavior (which leads to a sale) Here are the two caveats I have when it comes to PR vs Marketing: PR is the one that handles incidents like BP Oil Spills and Ford Trucks… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
4 years 11 months ago
But Marketing is not PR. An ideal PR objective specifies desired outcomes within target publics, such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes, and behavior. None of these are sales functions. OMG This statement he might as well take an M-16 and blow his head apart. MARKETING is desired outcomes within target publics such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, change of opinions, attitudes, and behavior (which leads to a sale) Here are the two caveats I have when it comes to PR vs Marketing: PR is the one that handles incidents like BP Oil Spills and Ford Trucks… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
4 years 11 months ago

@bdorman264 Bill your head hurts from your hangover. You read just fine.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
4 years 11 months ago

@John Falchetto well the guy left out Tribal Elders but I bet he was just so going bonkers his small omission was just an oversight.

sydcon_mktg
4 years 11 months ago
Well, I am not a PR person….but I think (and it’s just my opinion could be totally wrong!) is that all these arms need to work together for the greater good. PR, Marketing, IT, etc all work together to deliver the desired message and obtain the best results. I know I have said it before ( I think even in my guest piece here) but for example the best PR campaign wont get desired results if the correlating website cannot support campaign. Same with Marketing materials. It’s like a car, there are many components but they all need to work… Read more »
commammo
commammo
4 years 11 months ago
HI Gini – nice, provocative piece, I enjoyed it. A couple of comments: There are a lot of valuable PR activities that aren’t strictly related to sales. Issues management, crisis communications, employee communications, corporate social responsibility, to name a few. In the Integrated model, we agree to agree that everything eventually is about driving sales, but a more accurate understanding of public relations might be to say that we look to affect both ends of the revenue/expense calculus: we seek to contribute to sales and in the case of internal comms, reduce expenses. Financial impact (true ROI) isn’t necessarily the… Read more »
Erin F.
4 years 11 months ago

I suppose I don’t understand the author’s reply. I come from a background where marketing and PR blend together. PR is a part of marketing, and marketing is a part of PR. They work together beautifully. I suppose what bothers me the most is the comment that “PR objective specifies desired outcomes within target publics, such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes, and behavior. None of these are sales functions.” How are those not sales functions? They may not be all the time, but they can certainly contribute to sales.

jackielamp
jackielamp
4 years 11 months ago
The funniest thing about this is that I increasingly come across clients who don’t understand there is a difference between marketing and PR at all. I’ve had clients who get confused as to why we’re asking to see the marketing calendar because they think it’s our job to put it together, even though we want to know about this so we can base our PR efforts off of what’s being done on the marketing end. PR falls under a broader marketing umbrella–it’s just one part of the larger mix. But a lot of companies don’t even realize that. So it’s… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@commammo Totally agree with you…and think there is HUGE value in integrating disciplines, breaking down silos, and working together to grow a business. My point is why would we limit our conversations to ONLY traditional PR practice when there are so many other things we can (and should) do?

AlexReed
AlexReed
4 years 11 months ago
I agree! Gaining a better understanding of the way marketing, business, sales, advertising, PR, etc. works makes you better as a professional and makes the overall communication strategy more effective for your organization. Public Relations “groups” can and should focus on ways to become better PR professionals, but the way the world is shifting today, to land that job and move up in the workplace it is important to be a “jack of all trades.” In order to cut costs some organizations are even combining these different roles into one position. Even if that is not the case, businesses want… Read more »
Erin F.
4 years 11 months ago

@jackielamp That’s true. PR and marketing may be sides of the same coin, but those sides have some very different functions from each other.

RickRice
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich The whole silo approach coupled with avoiding actually measuring results has been a hurdle for PR people for years. That’s part of the reason it so hard to get past selling hours instead of expertise. Sure, we generate content but the reason for that is to get results and the more measurable those results the better.

Wake up folks! Closed minds don’t create success or growth.

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell
4 years 11 months ago
Hmmm. Sounds like a Union debate. In a summer carpenter’s apprentice job I learned that a laborer has to carry any piece of wood over 4′ long. Silly distinction — but if you are a laborer, seeing a carpenter carry wood is an outrage. If you are a PR professional, seeing “PR activities” lumped under “marketing” may seem just as threatening. Considering all of this as a hierarchy makes more sense. Maybe with “Marketing” or “Communications” at the top — definitely not PR. At the bottom we find SEO, Social Media Management, Web Development, Copywriting, etc.. Large companies with large… Read more »
glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell
4 years 11 months ago

Oh… and I love the graphic ! 🙂

Ike
4 years 11 months ago

I am a Communicator. Period.

The rest is turf war.

Ike
4 years 11 months ago

I am a Communicator. Period.

The rest is turf war.

jeremyburton
jeremyburton
4 years 11 months ago

PR practitioners should help their organization accomplish its goals. PR and marketing should work hand-in-hand to achieve goals – whatever they may be. It doesn’t dilute the PR industry to talk about it on LinkedIn either.

Erin F.
4 years 11 months ago

@Ike Amen. 🙂

csalomonlee
csalomonlee
4 years 11 months ago
I apologize if this is a repeated comment but was unsure if the original one was received. In response to this quote: “An ideal PR objective specifies desired outcomes within target publics, such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes, and behavior. None of these are sales functions.” My perspective is that all types of communications are to help drive the business objectives of the company forward, whether that is brand awareness, sales or community development. And in a world where sales, media opportunities and perception is increasingly social, where does the line between PR and marketing begin… Read more »
Erin F.
4 years 11 months ago

@csalomonlee I agree with you. I said something similar in my own comment. PR and marketing should complement each other. When they do, the results are better and everyone involved with the campaign has a better understanding of how the different components work and fit together.

jasonkonopinski
4 years 11 months ago

@Ike Love this. It’s the way that I approach my professional work as a community manager, content editor and blogger – which all ultimately function to grow brand awareness for correctnicity and other projects.

Nic_Cartwright
4 years 11 months ago

titles / schmitles….. I work in sports and unless you are driving sales (long or short term) then ‘why are you doing it’… It’s nice to have good PR (traditional sense) – and it feels good to see your name in lights – but if it is not driving your business – then ‘why are we doing it”….

Great PR sits in with the Sports team’s plan – works well with Marketing – and helps generate sales…

Nic_Cartwright
4 years 11 months ago

titles / schmitles….. I work in sports and unless you are driving sales (long or short term) then ‘why are you doing it’… It’s nice to have good PR (traditional sense) – and it feels good to see your name in lights – but if it is not driving your business – then ‘why are we doing it”….

Great PR sits in with the Sports team’s plan – works well with Marketing – and helps generate sales…

Neicolec
Neicolec
4 years 11 months ago

The whole debate reminds me of listening to editors debate the nuances when coming up with style guidelines for Microsoft. The differences were incredibly important to them–but it seemed that a lof of the issues they were discussing didn’t bear on the real issue of conveying needed information clearly. Similarly, does drawing lines like this really help? At the core, PR and Marketing almost always have the same goal of driving sales of some kind. This might be a naive view, though.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@KenMueller See, I think the same way you do. It doesn’t make any sense to not try to apply things that work in other industries, rather than saying, “That won’t work.”

I guess it’s the same as the B2B argument that what works for B2C won’t work for them. Never mind we’re all consumers, no matter what we buy.

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell
4 years 11 months ago

@Neicolec Nothing naive about that view 🙂 Arguing about these boundaries, in my naive opinion, is just an unfortunate loss of focus on the sales / revenue goal.

glenn_ferrell
glenn_ferrell
4 years 11 months ago

@Neicolec Nothing naive about that view 🙂 Arguing about these boundaries, in my naive opinion, is just an unfortunate loss of focus on the sales / revenue goal.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@Ameena Falchetto You are SO RIGHT about companies slashing the PR and marketing budgets. Because we’re seen as an expense, not an investment. So, if we can do things, using our skill set, to generate sales and become an investment, why wouldn’t we??

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@Ameena Falchetto You are SO RIGHT about companies slashing the PR and marketing budgets. Because we’re seen as an expense, not an investment. So, if we can do things, using our skill set, to generate sales and become an investment, why wouldn’t we??

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@John Falchetto Right..and to that very argument, what if I do my traditional PR job really well and drive loads of traffic and build awareness, but no one buys? Who gets the ax? Me or the marketing person?

GayleJoseph
4 years 11 months ago

Love Ike’s response! More than ever, the PR and marketing functions need to be integrated and working together to further business goals, the most important of which is to increase sales.

KenMueller
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich i love when you admit that you think the way I do. I just think that the way we segment things makes things worse and more topheavy.

GayleJoseph
4 years 11 months ago

Love Ike’s response! More than ever, the PR and marketing functions need to be integrated and working together to further business goals, the most important of which is to increase sales.

GayleJoseph
4 years 11 months ago

Love Ike’s response! More than ever, the PR and marketing functions need to be integrated and working together to further business goals, the most important of which is to increase sales.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@Soulati | PR I agree…and that’s why I’m so bent on dissolving silos and working together. It makes me batty when we help marketing or PR departments build their databases or generate leads and then they won’t talk to sales. Drives. Me. Nuts.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 11 months ago

@ScottHepburn Apparently we don’t all have bigger fish to fry. I wonder if it’s the old school not wanting to see what’s happening in the world? It could even relate to what I hear from business owners all the time: I need to see people’s eyeballs to close business. Or my customer isn’t online.

csalomonlee
csalomonlee
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich

Amen!

cparente
cparente
4 years 11 months ago
Great post Gini. Steven is trying to run a tight ship, and I’m sure the typical LI group gets a lot of spammy stuff. But he erred big time here. The campaigns I run for B2B and B2G clients just don’t get funded if I can’t promise some kind of ROI. It’s not always sales, could be organic SEO improvement that saves money on AdWord campaign, could be call center savings. Sometimes it’s “pipeline movers” — things that demonstrably move a prospect through the sales pipeline. It that is an important metric, you need to understand the sales automation tool… Read more »
John Falchetto
4 years 11 months ago

@ginidietrich All of you including the CEO who bankrupted the company by hiring fools.

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