The overlap between marketing and public relations
In many of my bios, I say that I’ve been in marketing and PR for 15 years. My first real job was as a graphic production artist in the PR department of a labor union, and after that I became a marketing writer.
In the last few months, however, I’ve had enormous difficulty defining where the line is between marketing and PR. A lot of what I’ve been asked to do as a marketing professional is within some official definitions of “public relations.” I write press releases, for example, and I have been the point of contact for industry analysts and have arranged meetings with industry reporters.
I have usually thought of the defining line as really going out and pushing for publicity, though. Yes, I can call a few of the analysts and reporters I know, but if you really want to make a push to get your product or service reviewed in a national or international publication, that’s not where my strengths are.
However, as I’ve been participating in PR chats on Twitter (#pr20chat and #solopr are two that I try to make every week), I’ve heard from PR professionals that they really don’t like defining themselves as publicists. This has really come to a head over the last couple of weeks when the New York Times let a business owner rant about PR, and several notable PR professionals responded to it (Kellye Crane’s great piece is here, and Gini Dietrich has a great piece here).
Which makes me feel dumb, since I’ve been using “PR” and “publicity” interchangeably, and, jeez, I even worked in a PR department. Unsurprisingly, the experts are vague about the definition of public relations. Grunig and Hunt (1984) define it as the management of communication between an organization and its “publics” (wow, I didn’t think that we were nouning adjectives until 1995!), but that covers advertising and marcom, two areas that are in the realm of marketing, not PR. Analyst relations, media relations, labor relations, and internal communications are other areas that are supposedly covered under the PR umbrella—but it still gets me wondering:
Where is the line between marketing and public relations? And if I don’t know where it is, having worked in the field(s) for over a decade, do both the marketing and PR industries need to reset customer expectations when starting projects?