PR vs marketing: What is the difference?

Many things in life are commonly confused but are actually different — Great Britain and the United Kingdom, shrimps and prawns, and cement and concrete (yes, really), to name a few. 

One example that’s closer to home for us here at Pitch is PR (public relations) and marketing. Both refer to activities that aim to improve brand performance and sometimes the two overlap, but they’re ultimately distinct from one another — and trust us, as a dedicated PR and marketing agency, we know our apples from our oranges, so to speak.

So, what is the difference between PR and marketing exactly? Allow us to reveal all — first by explaining both concepts in turn, before exploring how they’re distinct.

What is PR?

PR is the process of building and maintaining good relationships between a brand and those it interacts with — we’re talking customers, staff, investors, partners, clients, and the media. It employs strategic tactics that are closely aligned with a company’s goals to help bolster its image over the long term. Examples of such tactics include everything from creating content for social media and attending or running local business events, to entering brand partnerships.

As well as proactive PR methods, public relations is also often used as a shield. Crisis management PR works to reduce the impact of any public crises — like fraud, employee conflicts, or any other kind of scandal — by fixing (or at least acknowledging) the issue, addressing the afflicted parties, and presenting a united front.

What is marketing?

Marketing aims to attract an audience to a brand’s products or services via high-quality messaging. Good marketing should provide value to both existing and prospective customers through content, demonstrating product or service value, and increasing brand awareness and loyalty, with the ultimate goal of boosting sales.

Common marketing methods include online techniques like social media content, search engine optimisation, and email marketing, and offline methods such as posters, TV and radio advertisements, and running or attending industry events.

PR vs marketing: The similarities and differences

The similarities 

Some of the main similarities between PR and marketing include:

  • They both aim to portray a brand in a positive light to their target audience
  • Both PR and marketing use content to achieve their goals
  • Both must be aligned with a brand’s overall strategy to succeed

The differences 

The major differences between the two include: 

1. Target audience 

While PR is aimed at almost all stakeholders, marketing has a much narrower focus, and primarily targets customers in order to drive sales.

2. Goals

PR is generally about building relationships, whereas marketing is more about directly selling products and services. 

3. Methods

PR and marketing generally have different approaches. For example, press releases and media events are tactics employed almost exclusively by PR professionals, whereas methods like email marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO) are the domain of the marketing team.

4. Metrics 

While PR uses metrics like brand mentions, media coverage, and social media reach to measure success, marketing uses metrics like sales goals and return on investment (ROI) instead. 

5. Timeframe

PR is more of a long-term investment, as it’s impossible to improve a brand’s reputation in an instant. In comparison, marketing is more focused on the here and now of boosting immediate sales. 

So, what is the difference between PR and marketing?

The definitive answer to the question of what differentiates PR and marketing is this: PR is about building relationships to improve a brand’s reputation, whereas marketing is about appealing to a brand’s customers to increase sales. Both generally utilise distinct methods and metrics of success, focus on separate people and have different timeframes. That said, there are some crossovers between PR and marketing, like appealing to a brand’s customers and utilising content to achieve their respective goals. 


We hope that this guide has cleared up the difference between PR and marketing, and that you have a much clearer idea of which kind your own brand needs. Pitch is a leading PR and marketing agency that specialises in both fields and can enable your company to get the most out of its PR and marketing initiatives. Don’t believe us? Check out our portfolio to see how we’ve helped some of the biggest brands around in transforming their PR and marketing efforts, and don’t hesitate to get in touch to find out more or make an enquiry.

Further Reading