Although they’re sometimes confused, marketing and public relations are very distinct. Marketing builds brands by communicating directly to the customer, while PR drives reputation through third-party endorsement, among other techniques. But in the ideal world, the two work together and reinforce one another to reach business goals.
The visibility generated from a smart PR program can enable a B2C brand to move into the consideration set in a shopper’s mind, or help fill the funnel for a B2B company offering products or business services. The results of earned media coverage in top-tier media may lack the scale or reach of paid advertising, but they’re like fuel for the marketing engine. Here are my “five R’s of PR” – a few reasons why PR and marketing can and should work together.
Reputation. Paid media and direct marketing are powerful ways of communicating brand benefits. But the third-party endorsement that comes from earned media creates a type of credibility that marketing typically can’t generate. A reputation – driven by credible customer reviews, industry awards, and media features about an organization or its product – can be harnessed for marketing campaigns where PR and marketing truly work in concert. Again, it’s fuel for direct marketing and paid media efforts.
Recognition. Positive brand visibility helps build familiarity and trust, and it can be accomplished in many ways. In its early days, Starbucks actually based its marketing on its own storefronts rather than paid advertising. “Our stores are our billboards,” said CEO Howard Schultz, and he was right. Other brands create exposure with subversive ad messages or clever promotional offers. But the buzz that comes from word-of-mouth (or its digital equivalent) by influential people, favorable mentions in the press, or positive social media posts is often the outcome of pure PR.
Resonance. The practice of public relations got a big boost several years ago when Google changed its algorithm to reward mentions in high-authority domains. It meant that earned media stories and relevant branded content are likely to place higher on internet searches. So by “resonance” I’m referring to a brand that will move to the top of the search queue by virtue of its inclusion in content from trusted sources (like well-known media brands) as well as shareable content on popular social networks.
Reach. In my experience, the earned media results of a media relations campaign will fall short of paid media or direct-marketing when it comes to reach. We offer quality over quantity. Yet, when earned media is amplified through paid efforts – content syndication, or social media advertising, for example – it’s a powerful boost for both. Even a modest budget can extend the reach of earned media or guest posts with impressive results through simple tactics like sponsored posts or syndication.
Return-on-Investment. The ROI of public relations has historically been difficult to define, particularly when it’s used – as it should be – with other marketing and promotional techniques. This is why the PR industry introduced revised principles for evaluating PR outcomes. Our point of view is summarized in a recent post about the latest industry thinking, combined with practical ways to set KPI’s for what PR does best. In short, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula, but with pre-PR benchmarking, and a modest budget allocated for analytics and message analysis, public relations and marketing can work together in ways that neither is likely to do alone.