In the past, public relations and marketing existed in separate and very distinct spheres. Public relations specialists mostly entailed media relations and crafting press releases, while marketing involved boosting sales through brand visibility.

According to 5WPR, today, in spite of opposition from many “purist” PR specialists, the lines between marketing and PR have blurred. Now public relations, like marketing, targets social media, involves the use of ads, and relies heavily on endorsement and convenient “plugs.”

Who Gets What?

In spite of blurring lines between marketing and PR, the integration creates more of a custody battle than an opportunity for marital union – at times. For instance, behind the scenes in many companies, marketers and PR specialists argue about who gets to own what.

Who gets to manage social media? Who handles website creation? Who writes and distributes the content? As both teams can handle it, this sometimes presents problems. And though marketing once took the lead in these activities, PR has gradually moved in taking over these roles and sometimes replacing entire marketing teams.

Digital PR = Marketing

Many people refer to digital PR as digital marketing, for a reason: it’s essentially the same thing. It usually involves social media management, and manipulating social media platforms, blogging, and search engines to provide the results clients need. This, perhaps more than any other new function in PR, touches heavily on marketing and marketing tactics.

It is also steadily replacing more traditional forms of public relations. Specialists can distribute press releases, and even ads, through social media platforms. But more importantly, it gives brands the opportunity to level the playing field and open up a two-way communication. Making social media a great platform for fostering bonds (a PR objective) and generating leads (a marketing objective).

The Reaction of PR Firms

To resolve the growing problems associated with differentiating marketing from PR, many public relations firms provide one-stop shop options for clients. So clients do not need to play the mediator between PR and marketing, as both sides struggle to lay claims on certain important activities and tasks.

Many large PR Firms are now as capable of running a marketing ad for a client, as a content-driven campaign. By combining both focuses in-house, these firms and their clients take advantage of the synergy from not duplicating positions, and one specific person or team per task.

The Unchangeable Distinction

However, this does not always resolve the issue. Though marketing and public relations now use similar tools, the two disciplines still share different goals. Marketing primarily focuses on lead generation and boosting sales through brand visibility. While PR centers primarily on brand visibility to manage the company’s reputation as an industry leader, or to reach more customers for fostering bonds.

In essence, PR’s goal is to make a company look like it “arrived,” while marketing focuses more on actually getting it there. Marketing also focuses on attracting customers, while PR’s job is to make sure they stay.

PR specialists are capable of taking on both these tasks in integrated PR, but they should keep the marketing goal in mind when they do. Otherwise, lead generation and sales may suffer, and the numbers will tell.

Though the lines between marketing and PR continue to blur, shared tools do not always mean shared goals. For PR specialists incorporating marketing services in their portfolio or firm, beware of how using similar tools as marketing people can create the illusion of fulfilling marketing goals, when it may not.