If you’re a business owner or executive, you’ve likely been told that you need a killer marketing and PR strategy in order to be successful. But where to begin?
For many professionals, the distinction between marketing and public relations can seem cloudy, and while they might have a general understanding that marketing can help support sales and that public relations deals with press releases and the media, it can still be challenging to know which activities an organization should focus on at any given time, let alone what might make for an effective strategy.
Should a company be doing more advertising? Is it doing enough to support public relations (PR)? Should it expand to more social media platforms? Is Twitter marketing or PR?
Even though marketing and public relations can often share similar objectives in supporting an organization, they serve distinct purposes. In the simplest of terms, marketing activities are intended to promote an organization’s services or products, whereas public relations is primarily focused on managing and disseminating an organization’s information to impact public perception.
The first step in determining which activities to focus on is to identify which company objectives need the most support. For generating leads, driving sales, and nurturing customers, there are a host of marketing strategies to employ. For managing a brand’s reputation and spreading awareness amongst a wide audience, public relations activities should be the focus.
Below, we’ll break down these disciplines further so we can better understand how and when to best leverage each.
Public Relations is the ongoing practice of managing a brand’s public reputation by building mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their target audiences. Whether executed in-house or outsourced to a public relations firm, maintaining a positive image is the name of the game. But, while many people might be familiar with PR’s role in writing and distributing press releases, there is a myriad of other PR activities that are employed to help build brand awareness, establish thought leadership, and ultimately, impact public perception:
- Internal Communications – How organizations communicate with employees is equally as important as how they communicate with the public. An effective internal communications strategy leverages various channels and touchpoints to meet employees where they are with the goal of ensuring messaging consistency, transparency, and internal alignment.
- Media Relations – Media relations is critical to securing meaningful earned coverage and is much more time-intensive than simply drafting a pitch or press release and blasting it to a mass distribution list. Pitches should be personally catered to each member of the media and in line with what they’ve covered in the past. Identifying the right reporter for the right story takes time and thoughtful consideration. Being an ally to members of the media and providing valuable content that makes their jobs easier is mutually beneficial.
- Community Relations – Creating and participating in opportunities that allow organizations to build relationships with the communities in which they operate or serve is important to gain local support. These include town hall meetings, community education events, grand opening events, and promotional/sponsorship opportunities.
- Owned Content – Owned content is a critical component to a public relations campaign because unlike earned media, it allows the organization to fully control the message. Owned content includes websites, blogs, social media channels, and company newsletters.
- Events & Stunt PR – There are times in which organizations may choose to create their own “news.” This could take different forms, but events, local/nationwide competitions, and giveaways are a few ways to draw attention to a business or cause when there’s not hard or timely news to share.
- Speakers’ Bureau + Podcasts – Getting company leaders and industry experts in front of target audiences is a good way to increase thought leadership and brand awareness among key decision-makers. It’s important to focus on opportunities in which not only the presenting company benefits, but the information is tangible and/or actionable to the end audience.
- Crisis Communications – Unfortunate situations can occasionally befall organizations but having a crisis communication plan in place ahead of time can help to minimize fallout. Being able to respond quickly and with appropriate messaging is an important best practice for any company.
- Online & Social Reputation Management – Managing online reviews and conversations provides insight into what customers are saying about a particular organization. Part of reputation management is not only monitoring, but responding to and engaging with reviews and online communities as well.
Marketing is more directly concerned with driving sales and acquiring new customers or clients. There is certainly a myriad of marketing activities that are designed to build brand awareness for an organization, but the end goal is more oriented towards sales compared to public relations which is more oriented towards reputation. Some of the most prevalent marketing activities include:
- Advertising – Certainly, a significant aspect of marketing is paid advertising, whether it’s across social media, within search engines, on other websites, YouTube, and even billboards and print publications. It’s important to determine which channels are most frequented by an organization’s target audience, as advertising can be a great way to quickly and effectively get in front of potential customers.
- Search Engine Optimization – One of the most common ways that customers connect with businesses is by searching for products, services, and topics on Google. Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) is the practice of helping a company’s website rank higher on the search results page for relevant search terms or keywords. A huge component of SEO is content marketing or the creation of engaging, quality content in the form of blogs, landing pages, infographics, white papers, and even podcasts and videos.
- Social Media Marketing – Social media has emerged as one of the best mediums for fostering a community and loyal following for brands. It can be a great way to keep in front of an audience and provide company updates, share promotions, and reach new customers. Each platform is catered to different audiences and demographics; understanding each is critical to success.
- Influencer Marketing – Connected to social media marketing, influencer marketing is the practice of forming partnerships with popular social media accounts in order to get your goods or services in front of their follower base. Most often, influencers are paid monetarily or in the form of the brand providing its good or services to them at no charge.
- Email Marketing – Still one of the most powerful marketing activities a company can leverage, emails continue to yield strong open rates and are one of the most effective means of maintaining client and customer retention.
- Search Engine Marketing – Another way to take advantage of search engines is through search engine marketing (sometimes referred to as pay-per-click or PPC marketing). By running advertisements across Google or Bing, organizations can, in effect, jump the search results line and get in front users searching for services or topics related to them.
Traditional Marketing vs Digital Marketing
The difference between traditional and digital marketing is primarily the difference in mediums. Traditional marketing includes printed media, such as print publications, flyers, billboards, etc., while digital marketing refers to any form of digital media, such as social media, websites, email, and more. Typically, more local organizations will benefit from traditional marketing, while it’s usually more economical for a national organization to leverage digital. However, to create as many touchpoints with potential customers as possible, an integrated approach is often recommended.
A Unified Front
For most organizations, when it comes to determining which areas of communication to focus on, a hybrid approach of both marketing and public relations strategies is likely the best recipe for success. Each discipline supports a company in different ways and one should not be neglected or prioritized over the other.
At Bloom, we work with our clients to help specify which objectives are most relevant and will have the most impact and develop omnichannel communication strategies across marketing and PR to support those objectives.
Reach out to us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about the many ways marketing and PR can help your business achieve its goals.