PR & marketing – where do you draw the line?

I’ve worked in PR/comms for more years than I care to admit. I’ve worked for big agencies and small agencies, I’ve worked in-house too. I’ve written press releases, byline articles, brochures. I’ve launched products, profiled CEOs, facilitated events, created messaging frameworks, delivered comms strategies, all the things you would expect your PR/comms person to do.

But here’s my secret.

I’ve never been able to define where the line between PR & marketing is. Every time someone told me about a marketing project or a campaign they were working on, I’ve thought “well, my team does that”.

Truly integrated communications teams, like ours, do so much more than media relations. Most of the work we do crosses those imagined lines with marketing, digital, creative, copywriting, advertising and more. We pride ourselves on helping our clients achieve their business goals by communicating effectively with all of their audiences through whatever channels are most impactful. We don’t limit the work we do or the results we get by putting barriers on it.

Last week I attended CommsCon21. Delivering the keynote address, Barbara Bates, CEO of Hotwire, confirmed what we already know – that there is more and more overlap between PR/comms and marketing than ever before. She talked about how you can’t market without doing some PR, and you can’t PR without some marketing, that the two functions have to co-exist. She shared the clarification that so many of us blur the lines of in our day-to-day work:

  • PR/comms is about building and maintaining a positive perception of a brand
  • Marketing is about promoting a product or service

And she’s right. The better integrated the two functions are, the better the results. But the most spot-on analogy I heard came from Jamin Spitzer, founder of Abacus Insights Partners. Like all the best analogies, he opted for agriculture and said:

So are we all farmers now?

Shahlia Nelson-Rogers