Trying to explain the difference between marketing and PR is a bit like describing last night’s dream to your significant other; it’s so clear in your mind, but the more you talk, the less coherent the description becomes. (...So then when I finally caught up with them, turns out it WAS my best friend after all, but they had noodles for arms? And then…)

After today’s blog you’ll have a better understanding of marketing and PR, and their key differences.

What is Marketing?

Marketing and PR are related, but slightly different processes. At its core, marketing is the process of promoting and selling products or services through some kind of paid or organic advertising. The goal of marketing is to get people to purchase.

What is PR?

Public Relations (PR for short) is more about managing communication in the service of maintaining a positive reputation. The goal of PR is for people to like you.

Does it help people purchase if they like you? Yup. Does it help people like you if they’ve purchased your product and had a good experience? Yup. It’s all connected, but it’s not the same. Let’s look at an example of marketing vs. PR.

Marketing in Action

Say you sell biodegradable washcloths. Your marketing department is going to push out a campaign talking about the following:

  • They are just as effective as regular washcloths.
  • You’re going to feel better using them because you’re doing right by the environment.
  • Clean up yourself and the earth by purchasing today. 

In marketing, there should be a call to action that encourages people to either buy now, or to stay in touch so that it’s easy to buy later, when they are ready. Marketing is about the sale.

PR in Action

Your PR department, however, is going to take a slightly different tack. Their campaign will center on things like:

  • The fact that you donate 10% of your sales to an environmentally friendly organization.
  • That you are the chosen product for groups that clean up ocean animals after oil spills.

Typically, there is no call to action here (or if there is, it doesn’t direct you to buy the product). It might encourage you to look up some information about what you can do for the environment or direct you to partner websites. PR is about building a positive reputation. Not about sales.


While marketing and PR are related and have a symbiotic relationship, their purpose is slightly different. Marketing drives sales; PR drives reputation. And in our honest opinion? Each one serves to support the other. So instead of wondering, “which one is better?” try and find ways to incorporate both into your business practices.

No matter what you’re trying to build in your own business, having great branding, messaging, media, and web, will help you get there faster. If you’re looking to set your marketing (or PR!) in motion, contact us today.