PR vs. Marketing: Understanding the Difference

Lauren Helm working at her desk and typing on a laptop.

No, public relations (PR) and marketing are not the same. Sure, marketing and PR are both vital components of any successful business strategy, but they serve distinct purposes and employ different tactics.

Here’s why:

The primary purpose of marketing is to promote your company’s products or services, generate sales, and drive revenue for the business. Their job is directly influencing consumer behavior and purchasing decisions through targeted campaigns. On the other hand, PR centers around managing the company’s brand reputation by building relationships to enhance brand credibility, trust, and goodwill.

I want to share with you the key differences between PR and marketing and why you need both:

Goals and Measurement

Marketing’s overarching goal is to influence purchasing decisions. PR focuses on managing a company’s reputation, brand credibility, trust, and goodwill. Imagine your business is launching a new product: a biodegradable cleaning solution. The marketing objectives would likely focus on driving sales and increasing market share, measured by key performance indicators (KPIs), including sales revenue, customer acquisition rates, and the return on investment (ROI) from advertising. In contrast, the PR objectives for the same product launch would likely revolve around shaping public perception, enhancing the company’s brand reputation, and positioning the business as a leader in sustainability. PR measures its KPIs through media mentions, sentiment analysis of media coverage, and the overall impact on brand reputation among key stakeholders.

Audience and Targeting

Marketing targets potential customers already familiar with your brand, whereas PR targets broader audiences who can influence the perception of others, which is more likely to drive potential customers to the Marketing funnel for your product or service. Consider you own a luxury fashion brand. The marketing audience consists of potential customers likely to buy luxury fashion items. The PR audience consists of fashion journalists, bloggers, and influencers who can help amplify the brand’s message and reach a wider audience who is interested in luxury fashion items.


Here’s a big one: marketing messages can lead to skepticism, often emphasizing features, benefits, and value propositions that appeal to consumers’ needs and desires. Ultimately, marketing controls its messaging. On the other hand, PR is a powerhouse in this arena because it collaborates with stakeholders to get the right message across. PR focuses on broad brand narratives, corporate social responsibility, thought leadership, and industry leadership — all while building trust and credibility through public perception. We detailed a lesson in brand messaging about Danfoss, which is a great read if you’d like to learn more.

Why You Need Marketing And PR

It’s vital for a business to have both marketing and PR strategies:

  • Communication: While marketing focuses on driving sales, PR ensures the business maintains a positive brand reputation.
  • Building Trust: Marketing may attract customers, but PR helps to build trust and credibility with an audience, leading to long-term relationships and brand loyalty.
  • Managing Crises: PR plays a crucial role in managing crises and negative public sentiment, while marketing efforts can continue to drive positive messaging and maintain customer engagement during challenging times.
  • Reaching Different Audiences: Marketing targets consumers, while PR is a more comprehensive approach to reach stakeholders such as investors, employees, and the community, fostering goodwill and support.
  • Enhancing Brand Equity: Together, marketing and PR efforts strengthen brand equity by creating consistent messaging, reinforcing brand values, and differentiating the business from its competitors.

While marketing drives immediate sales, public relations lays the groundwork for sustainable business success. By prioritizing PR, businesses can build trust, manage reputations, foster relationships, and differentiate themselves in the marketplace. 

Investing in public relations isn’t just about securing headlines; it’s about building a brand that delivers long-term growth and prosperity.