Crossing the Line Between PR and Marketing

There’s a raging – and quite interesting – debate taking place in a LinkedIn forum I participate in on the relationship between PR and marketing. I’ve found it especially interesting since I recently was engaged in the same debate while teaching PR courses at a local university.

Surprisingly to me, there is a group that believes quite strongly that PR *is not* part of marketing. That it is a separate and distinctly different function within an organization. That’s “crazy talk” to me – my paradigm has always placed PR under the “Promotion P” of marketing, along with advertising, sales, etc.  I firmly believe that PR is one of the communication options available to marketers under the “promotion” umbrella – along with advertising, sales, etc. And many others do, too – but not all.

Here are just a few excerpts from the discussion:

“… companies need to remember there is a difference between PR and advertising. The departments within companies are separate. There is a PR department & an Advertising department. The reason they are separate is because they have different purposes.”


“These are very interesting arguments and opinions. Someone who thinks PR is not marketing needs to have his head read.”

I tend to agree with the latter (although I would probably have tempered my comments just a bit…).

Having been fortunate to be responsible for all elements of communication (internal, external, PR, advertising, etc.) as Director of Corporate Communications in the energy and health care industries, I can’t imagine separating the two. They’re simply two tools that organizations can use to forward their overall marketing strategies, IMO.

Seems like common sense to me. And, in fact, I’d go even further than trying to tie just these two communication methodologies together – I think *all* communication tactics within an organization (internal and external) need to be carefully aligned, implemented and measured as part of a unified effort.

Our publics converge more often than we realize – and more and more every day. Without coordination and consistency, we’re at risk of sending mixed – and sometimes misleading – messages.

Regardless of the definitions and the professional sensitivities on both sides depending on which academic path you may have chosen or which profession you currently work in, I think we’d all serve our clients and companies most effectively if we crossed the line (especially in organizations where these functions are in separate departments/divisions) and learned to work together toward mutual communication goals.

Tags: , , ,