Jessica Tiller
Jessica Tiller

Who feels like they’re an expert in both marketing and public relations? Or better yet, who within the communications industry can clearly describe the difference to someone at a networking event? We’ve all been in that situation at some point in our careers. And to add to the complications — and blur the lines even further — today’s communications pros are usually juggling a mix of online marketing, advertising, and public relations.

All too often, businesses tend to think of marketing and PR as one and the same. Even worse, some companies tend to define marketing as responding to RFPs, while public relations is often reduced to sending out news releases and securing media coverage. Obviously, that approach is doomed to failure (and probably the reason some executives discount the importance of both disciplines).

O'Dwyer's May '18 PR Firm Rankings MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's May '18 PR Firm Rankings Magazine

Given that, let’s start with some basics. While today we hear about everything from relationship marketing to content marketing, marketing ultimately comes down to developing a demand for a specific product or service, analyzing data to determine what is or isn’t work and fulfilling the customer’s needs. Public relations, on the other hand, is defined as the strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their audiences.

Clearly, you can see how PR and marketing tend to — or should — be joined at the hip, with both supporting a company’s sales efforts and/or advancing an organization’s overall business objectives. To have marketing and public relations departments operate within individual silos at any company, large or small, really does a disservice to the organization. While we may be a little biased, the most successful organizations tend to be the ones with cohesive marketing and PR programs working side-by-side to promote a business. Think of marketing and PR like peanut butter and jelly or milk and cookies — they just go together.

What, then, are the benefits of a coordinated communications program, incorporating both marketing and PR?

Credibility

Utilizing marketing activities, such as compiling and analyzing data, informs public relations in order to create meaningful content. Having hard data from the marketing department can help PR to sharpen its audience focus and refine the tactics it employs. That, in turn, brings added credibility to the PR effort and a direct correlation between activities and results.

Consistency

Today’s business prospects and clients are bombarded with a seemingly limitless stream of information and an endless number of options. Surprising as it sounds, the average individual is hit with between 4,000-10,000 brand messages per day! As a result, psychologists have determined that it takes a minimum of seven mentions for a brand to even begin to register with the intended target.

To cut through all of that “noise,” businesses need to constantly remind their key audiences who they are, what products or services they offer, and why those products/services are preferable to those of competitors. Creating and then maintaining ongoing marketing and PR initiatives will help organizations to do exactly that. No initiative will have true success without the consistency.

Greater awareness

By employing complementary marketing and PR tactics, you will gain greater visibility for your business, helping you stand out from your competition. Marketing’s tactics are often focused on self-generated activities, such as company newsletters, electronic and printed materials, and brochures, while public relations activities are focused on earned opportunities, such as media coverage, awards, and speaking engagements.

Through a cohesive communications strategy — utilizing both marketing and PR — a business will be able to expand awareness of their organization’s products or services.

Allow for synergy

Marketing and PR can, and should, work together to better reach an intended audience. Because marketers and PR professionals already work in many of the same areas, it makes sense that their work could be done cooperatively. Marketing and PR need to share strategies, messaging and information, and then coordinate on the tactics moving forward.

Unifying messages

Both marketing and PR departments need to be on the same page — and use the same messaging — in order to optimize efforts and initiatives intended to reach current and prospective clients. What is the point of pushing out an e-newsletter or updating the website if the PR team is using messages that are outdated, focusing on the wrong aspects of the business, or describing the company in completely different terms?

Here’s a case in point: Several years ago, we were helping a client in the benefits space to develop a strategic communications plan. The top two executives could not understand why no one in their market seemed to know what they did. Some even mistook the company for a law firm, given its name.

In speaking to each of the executives, neither could quickly identify what their company was about or who their key audiences were. When they did start discussing these topics, they disagreed with each other. Clearly, if there’s no agreed upon internal messaging, how will key audiences, who are bombarded daily with other brands, be able to understand who you are and what services you offer?

The bottom line: marketing and public relations need each other to provide ­optimum results. It’s not a line item that is negotiable. In today’s competitive business climate, a comprehensive, ongoing mar­keting and public relations program is a must.

Worth remembering are the words of Bill Gates: “If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget, I’d spend it on PR.”

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Jessica Tiller is executive vice president and co-founder of Weiss PR, Inc. Celebrating its 10th year in business, Weiss PR helps businesses and non-profit organizations reach, engage, and influence the right audiences in order to achieve their communications and business objectives. For more information, contact the author at jtiller@weisspr.com or visit the website www.weisspr.com.