When considering whether to purchase a product or service, the first thing you do is throw the brand name into a search engine. It’s become second nature for us to Google anything that we might be putting money into, and what we find often determines our decision.
Everything you stumble upon online makes up a brand’s digital footprint, which is a combination of websites, social media, reviews, forum mentions, press coverage, and marketing. This comprehensive digital presence must be curated and is achieved through a combination of organic conversation, targeted marketing, and strategic PR. Combining both marketing and PR, while also aligning their goals and strategies, can be a hugely effective way to enhance your brand’s footprint.
How PR and Marketing Align
As terms, “public relations” and “marketing” are often used interchangeably, but while there is some crossover, each serves its own distinct, specific purpose. PR refers to targeted campaigns that are strategized, planned, and executed with the goal of improving and maintaining a brand’s reputation and credibility in the public eye. A mention, feature, or interview in an international outlet, local paper, or trade magazine goes a long way in giving stakeholders reassurance that a brand can be trusted.
In contrast, marketing refers to the positioning of a brand in a sales context through social media, traditional adverts, and creative campaigns. It includes the factors that the brand is able to have full control of when it comes to presenting their service or product to potential buyers. In simple terms, the sole purpose of marketing is to increase sales and promote products or services. In return, consumers understand that what they are seeing is promotional, rather than the voice of an impartial party. But, as is the nature of marketing, it can still be extremely persuasive and influence a purchasing decision.
Marketing and PR are Both Essential
It’s no secret that the purse strings are getting a little tighter these days. Often, brands feel pressured to make a definitive decision about where they are going in order to better channel their efforts and budget — marketing, PR, or a bit of both. Both marketing and PR are vital, but the benefits of each can only be obtained if you understand the unique purpose each one serves.
For instance, if you pump all of your budget into PR expecting a huge uptick in sales, it’s simply not going to happen. Likewise, if you focus solely on marketing, it doesn’t mean consumers will trust your brand name or sense any kind of organic buzz around it just because it is getting in front of them. When consumers go online, a well-rounded picture is always going to be the most persuasive sell.
Why Brands Can’t Achieve the Same Level of Success in One Without the Other
Too much focus on either marketing or PR won’t help brands achieve their full potential when building their footprint. Sophisticated marketing techniques may get your brand in front of the right people, but it doesn’t give them any reason to trust it; marketing merely — and, perhaps, only momentarily — piques interest. Likewise, extensive press coverage won’t translate directly to sales if it’s being viewed by the wrong demographic or target audience.
Let’s say your company lands a glowing mention in a broadsheet newspaper, but your product is aimed at young people aged 16-25. In this case, that demographic is unlikely to see it. Similarly, if your brand is covered on a youth website for doing something fun or meme-worthy, but your demographic is logistics professionals aged 45-65, it’s not going to get you sales. Additionally, if PR comes across too much like marketing, or your marketing does not have a strong, consistent message, the two can become muddled. A well-rounded digital footprint is about combining your PR and marketing efforts to cover all bases.
Benefits for Brands to Integrate PR and Marketing
By combining both PR and marketing efforts, you can execute an effective campaign that tackles two sets of goals while working toward the same bigger picture. The benefit of aligning your efforts is identifying a consistent brand voice, message, and principals that drive how you want to be viewed in the public eye. If one is at odds with the other, it’s going to be detrimental to the brand’s footprint. Conversely, having a consistent, vibrant presence in both the media and online spaces shows that your brand is a proactive one.
It can be easy for PR and marketing to become muddled, especially when you outsource them. For instance, many agencies today offer full-service packages that cover everything from digital marketing to social media management, but these are both marketing services — not PR, per se. The more brands understand what each service intends to achieve — and how they can both enhance one another — the stronger that both their marketing and PR efforts will become. While marketing and PR are not designed to achieve the same things, they can still effectively strive for the same end goal together.
Alaina Chiappone is a publicist at Otter PR in St. Petersburg, FL. She has a Bachelor’s degree in public relations from the University of Florida. Previously, Chiappone worked in corporate communications, public affairs, and digital marketing. Her clients have included fashion, wellness, music, hospitality, fintech, and healthcare industries.