When Worlds Collide: Is the Merging of PR and Marketing a Good Thing?

Mar 21, 2018

Before social media, cross-platform campaigns and general business trends toward greater economy and efficiency of services, public relations and marketing though often collaborators were two distinct disciplines. Despite a kind of “kissing cousins” relationship, each had its own mission and purpose.

In today’s world, however, public relations and marketing are connected in ways that are both complex and granular. How effectively these well-blended professions work together is key to positively and creatively positioning your business for success.

Two Faces or a Vase?

It used to be that marketing handled advertising and PR handled earned media. Both jobs required that they make the business look good. That’s still true today kind of. It depends on how you look at it, and even then it can be hard to explain.

Let’s start with a visual the Rubin’s vase. This is a rather famous optical illusion that is usually depicted as a simple black-and-white image that can be interpreted differently depending on who is looking at it. One person looking at the image may see the shape of a vase, while another might glimpse two faces in profile facing each other. The person who sees the face can eventually see the vase, and the person who sees the face can see the two profiles, but neither person can they maintain both images concurrently.

This is what PR and marketing used to look like. Marketing helped move the company’s product (two faces), while PR sold the “vase” in the form of the company’s brand and reputation.

Today, those distinctions are not as stark. Businesses are expecting their PR and marketing teams to find a way to see two faces and a vase at the same time. Like never before, PR and marketing need each other to help a business succeed.

A Distinction without a Difference?

OK, so the average business executive may not really care about whether PR and marketing represent a single entity or distinct areas (after all, they care about results, which as we know, always fall freely from the magical Results Tree). It’s OK we’re used to it.

But you should care. More than anyone else in the company, the PR and marketing teams orbit in close and consistent proximity to your customers. Understanding how they best work together can make or break a business. If they are not on the same page, your company will not be on the same page with the customer.

You do the math.

The Content Example

One of the reasons why PR and marketing are “colliding” is that in today’s environment content is king. Byline articles, blog posts, tweets, status updates, e-mail blasts. It seems that every new piece of content is “old” by the time the final stamp of approval is given.

Campaigns highly customized to the business or even a specific initiative within the enterprise maximize your business’s core messages. But they also act in a way to bring a measure of control, discipline and meaning to the tsunami of content most businesses need to produce to stay relevant in hyper-competitive industries.

The success of these campaigns often hinges on how well marketing and PR work together.

With any initiative, the Golden Rule is “early and often.” This means that your PR and marketing pros need to engage early and often in order for the client to enjoy the end result (capitalizing on the success of a campaign or initiative).

PR and marketing teams feed on data both internal (from sales, product developers, c-suite executives) and external (customers and market shifts within the industry). That data will ultimately define the functional aspects of a campaign (the best vehicles and channels to reach prospective customers) and the emotional resonance (how the precise positioning of a message impacts a customer and their willingness to buy from and stay loyal to the business).

Final Thoughts

When I start with a new client, one of my first goals is to get to know the marketing team and what they are working on. I also ask to engage with the sales team. What are customers connecting with? How do they interact with the company? And I don’t accept stock answers. I drill down. Sometimes, a turn of phrase or just the right word can be the different between a lost sale and a signature on the dotted line.

Years ago, I might not have thought to do this. Today, I understand that the data I acquire from them will inform the shape of my PR campaign. I also understand that my PR campaign will affect everything on their side from sales presentations and the keywords and phrases used in a brochure to social media campaigns and the priorities on the content calendar.

Marketing and PR, while still very much distinct, are travelling toward the same goal and often taking the exact same road. There are the occasional places where the two diverge, but understanding those subtle differences is where true collaboration and the success of your business lies.

Matt Schlossberg

Matt is an award-winning journalist and editor with nearly 20 years experience in news and feature writing/editing; content strategy; marketing and brand journalism; book acquisitions and publishing; copywriting; digital content development; strategic communication planning; social media engagement strategies; multimedia presentation development; and editing on multiple platforms, including print, online, and digital publishing. He previously managed communications for HIMSS, and worked as a reporter.