Public Relations (PR), according to Flynn, Gregory & Valin (2008), is the strategic management of relationships between an organisation and its diverse publics, using communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realise organisational goals, and serve the public interests. The institute of public relations defines PR as the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public relations is thus the discipline that looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding, support, influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.
On the other hand, marketing is defined by the American Marketing Association (2013) as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
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Philip Kotler defines marketing as the science and art of exploring, creating and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential.
From the definitions, it is clear that marketing and public relations do have something in common and this is the communication aspect that they both carry out. The communications from both marketing and public relations are in most cases directed to the same publics and at times use the same techniques. However, the key differentiator between the two is that marketing’s main objective is on pushing sales while public relations is mainly looking at managing the perception (goodwill creation) of the public.
Marketing and public relations are both major external functions of the organisations and share a common ground in regard to product publicity and consumer relations.
Dissolving the tension between PR and marketing
There’s always been some degree of tension and competition between public relations and marketing people, especially when it comes to dominance and attention and if not managed well, this affects the execution of organisational goals. Marketing generates sales of goods and services and directly contributes to the company’s profitability. Whereas, public relations coordinates relationships with various publics in order to gain public acceptance and approval of the organisation’s activities, including its sales activities.
Correlation of Siamese twins
Deducing from this, we can conclude that marketing enhances sales in pursuit of profitability and this needs PR to create a perception and confidence for the consumer to buy the product. The correlation is thus that of Siamese twins, which should work hand in glove. The necessity to enjoy maximum results from marketing and public relations has seen the development of the term “marketing public relations”. Other scholars have developed the now popular concept of “integrated marketing communication”. From further research, it has been noted that public relations could benefit from advertising.
Advertising has now been used for less sales-oriented messages and this has culminated in the creation of image adverts that try to polish or “sell” the reputation of ad’s sponsor. On the other hand, it was also noted that media publicity also assists marketing. For instance, the Siamese partnership can be exploited in a new product launch. There are many instances in organisations whereby the marketing department generates and flights an advert in the local media and PR is not involved. I believe the impact of that promotion is not as effective as it would have been if the two sections had worked together. It’s not everyone who reads adverts or can comprehend the meaning of adverts and this is where PR can complement. The PR resource should ensure that they use their PR strategies to elucidate the advert from the marketing perspective to the public understanding. Envision a good advert that is complemented by a press release or news story amplifying the new product.
Marketing can exhaust the possibilities of return on investment for public relations. After a news release has been written and issued, marketing can boost return on investment for the organisation using social media to target: customers, opinion leaders, bloggers and other non-mainstream media. PR can also support marketing by reaching influencers that marketing ordinarily cannot reach. This is mainly because public relations can reach powerful media influencers using news releases. Research has also shown that third-party news coverage is always more credible than paid advertising.
When marketing and public relations work harmoniously together, they can individually achieve more than when they are in isolation. Karen Prichard (2002) further ratifies this view when she asserts that if public relations and marketing work together, one and one could really make three. Initiatives embraced in the spirit of teamwork are the ones that blossom. The advent of seeing it as black and white is futile, but having a mixture of the two, which is grey, will see organisations achieving more with less resources and effort. The rise of social and digital media makes it even more beneficial.
Some global brands like Barclays Bank, Sony and Google have successfully consolidated their public relations and marketing teams in their quest to improve the bottom line. The importance of the two working together was aptly summed up by Alistair Smith, managing director, corporate communications at Barclays Bank when he said, “If they work in a co-ordinated way with the same objective — to protect the brand and build reputation — that can be beneficial. Organisations that do good corporate advertising, lobbying and media can achieve a huge bang for their bucks. When PR and marketing are in alignment, it can work terribly well.’’
Marketing and sales should actually invite PR to their strategy meetings so that they run with the same goal uniformly. Jeremy Beadles, director of corporate relations at Heineken, leads a team that encompasses government affairs, CSR, sustainability, external PR and brand PR, but his team is also integrated into the marketing team. In their organisation, they use a top-down approach and the inter-relationships are very close. According to Beadles, the two have similar business objectives; they are not exactly the same, and nor should they be. When their targets are not in conflict, they are aligned and cascaded. The major source of mistrust derives from the teams’ reporting lines, where marketing directors historically reported to commercial directors, which implicitly highlighted their role in boosting the bottom line, while many directors of communications have started to report directly to the chief executive or financial director.
There is a heritage of suspicion between the two sides, concedes Green from insurance giant Aviva. However, PR can actually provide “fuel” for the marketing machine. Other than product information, PR can easily generate valuable content to propel marketing. Contrary to some beliefs, public relations professionals can be quite creative and they routinely target some of the toughest audiences in the world. I applaud the recent rejuvenation of the Zimbabwe Institute of Public Relations (ZIPR) which recently held its elections. As we look ahead, I advocate for a nexus and exchange programmes between the ZIPR and the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. This is where the future of our brands lies and we should eradicate silos in organisations.
George Manyaya is a PR specialist with 12 years experience spanning the ICT, United Nations (IOM), banking, tourism, mining and aviation sectors. He is a qualified journalist who possesses a Masters of Commerce in Corporate Governance and Strategic Management and a Masters in International Relations. He is currently reading for a Doctorate in Business Administration.
*This article was contributed on behalf of the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe, a leading body of marketing professionals promoting professionalism to the highest standards for the benefit of the industry and the economy at large. For any further information, kindly contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website on www.maz.co.zw