With public relations (PR) expanding its role in the digital landscape and increasingly taking on wider responsibilities, such as social media marketing and digital advertising, it is no surprise that some businesses believe PR, marketing and advertising are one or the same thing, and that if they do one thing, they do not need the other.

However in reality, the three disciplines are distinct and yet are intertwined with each other. They should not be compared or pitted against each other as they give the best results when they work in concert. To understand how this is accomplished, let us begin by defining the terms.

PR professionals act as the middle men between a company, the media and general public. The PR department is tasked with preparing press releases, social media posts, company blogs, annual reports, and managing all media interactions.
Advertising, on the other hand, refers to a company’s paid media placements, such as TV commercials, print ads, YouTube ads and others.

Because PR results in non-paid appearances in media outlets (such as interviews), while advertising secures paid appearances (via ads), this means that the former enjoys more credibility than the latter.
Meanwhile, marketing is concerned with the transfer of goods and services from the producer or provider to the consumer i.e. sales. In other words, marketing aims at generating direct revenue, while PR aims at generating positive reputation and goodwill.
When an organization’s PR, marketing and advertising work in isolation, there are bound to be missed opportunities and much confusion. The three vital functions perform best when they work in tandem, with a focus on their shared corporate goals.
PR is a powerful tool that can help shape public opinion. Effective PR lends credibility to both marketing and advertising efforts. PR helps an organization build a connection with the consumers, who in turn are more likely to believe an advertisement of that company, that has been paid for. It is also possible that the goodwill generated by one PR campaign may last several ad campaigns and more, thus proving to be more cost-effective as well.

PR can also help meet marketing goals. One of the areas where marketing can do with some support from PR is consumer data. PR can generate data from an online survey, polls or social media posts – data that can be used for content marketing such as blogs, e-newsletters, paid campaigns, etc. as well as advertising campaigns. Such data is a goldmine of information on customers, their preferences, likes and dislikes, buying habits, trends as well as the organization’s rivals. Data from print and social media monitoring come handy when drafting marketing strategies.

In some cases, a hugely successful PR campaign (READ: Viral videos, posts, polls, etc.) or even a media mention might result in an increase in leads and sales. This is a good opportunity for marketing to coordinate with PR and align their efforts to further bolster the sales. It is therefore important that both the PR and marketing teams work together before and after a campaign launch.
The rise of smart customers demands smart marketing and PR techniques. Today’s customer embarks on an elaborate online research of the products and services he is interested in, before making a purchase. This is where PR comes in. PR content creators can take control of the narrative online about their brand by publishing positive messages that can convince buyers in their favor. A common approach used by PR teams includes sending samples of products to influencers, who then review the products on their channels, thus putting the spotlight on the products.

To conclude, the trio of PR, marketing and advertising is like the classic combination of pancakes, maple syrup and butter. One cannot do without the other and are best when served together.

With greater cooperation between the three departments, companies can devise a strategic integrated communication campaign that suits their message and target audience, with the ultimate goal of making profits and enhancing corporate reputation.