Marketing manager vs public relations manager: what’s the difference?

Just as an attorney detests being confused with an advocate, so it is with marketing managers and public relations managers.

While ostensibly being in the same field, these two professions are markedly different in terms of what it is they hope to achieve. There are any number of articles and blog posts that fail to make the distinction between the two, with the result that students hoping to enter one or other field are left confused about which business administration courses and modules are best suited to them.

The key difference lies in the goals that are set for each:

  • Marketing targets the customers a business should sell to and devises a strategy around that.
  • Public relations targets the audience who will buy that company’s products while simultaneously developing a positive corporate image around that business.

What is increasingly noticeable is that both marketing and PR managers have to employ effective digital strategies.

As noted by Alexandra Reid of Francis Moran & Associates: “In defining PR and marketing, we must consider the fact that they are constantly evolving with the changing media landscape and increasing demands of consumers. And these consumers are becoming more powerful and vocal as social technology advances and dilutes the persuasive authorities of businesses.”

However while social media has brought about something of a convergence, the roles, particularly in respect of traditional media, remain defined.

Marketing will focus on what is described as “paid media”; in other words, advertising is paid for and will appear as scheduled, whereas PR is known as “earned media”; that is, press releases are sent to media houses and may or may not be picked up as a story.

“Earned media is beyond the company’s direct control. The company cannot dictate when it will be published or how the publication will use it. Still, earned media is a potent tool, as third-party endorsement can have a powerful impact on sales,” explains media monitor CyberAlert.

A large part of a marketing manager’s job is understanding customer trends and understanding what they need.

One need only look at how cellphone networks exploded onto the market in the late 1990s and early 2000s. There were people who actually swore they would never own a mobile phone, but today life is almost impossible without one.

The best marketers immediately understood that the need would one day exist, and from the outset made consumers aware of why cellphones were important by way of carefully thought-out strategies.

Public relations managers then planted that idea in the mainstream media, often presenting statistics to back up their claims that cellphones were the future.

While there may be the odd bit of friendly rivalry between marketing and PR managers, both are essential to the growth of any company. Without a public presence, a business has little chance of competing with others.

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