Corporate Communications, Public Relations, Marketing–What’s the Difference, and How Do They Overlap?

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learn the difference between Communications vs. PR vs. Marketing

Communications. Public Relations (PR). Marketing. When you hear these three concepts, they sound synonymous, right? 

Wrong!

While they share a few similarities, these three tools are all independent gears that rely on each other to operate your B2B brand’s integrated marketing communications machine as efficiently and effectively as possible. In the world of PR and marketing, a lot of industry jargon gets thrown around and used interchangeably, confusing clients and potential consumers. (If you need a jargon refresher, check out our glossary.) Muddling these terms and their role in your marketing strategy can give you a false sense of security for your business when you may actually need help.

To know how to use each to your brand’s advantage, you must understand what they really are and where you can apply them to grow your business.

A rule of thumb to always remember: marketing is not communications, and communications is not marketing. And if you’re unsure where public relations fits into all this, we can help you out there too.

The Definitions: Corporate Communication vs. Public Relations (PR) vs. Marketing

Corporate Communication

Sometimes referred to as strategic communication, this vertical involves the internal and external communication of the company, including employees, investors, stakeholders, the executive team, and sometimes other variations. It mainly deals with issue management, mergers and acquisitions, litigation, corporate-to-client communication, and so on.

This means corporate communication professionals have a constant pulse on all the activities going on within the company to keep it running smoothly.

Before you can showcase your brand to the world, you have to ensure that everyone on your team is on the same page. Your mission, values, and goals should be ingrained into your business and everyone that’s a part of it —corporate communication focuses on taking the brand that was developed in marketing and sharing it strategically both internally and to clients to ensure consistency and unity. Good communication increases morale, builds interdepartmental bridges, and encourages transparency.

Related Reading: Here’s Why Consistency is Key When it Comes to Your Brand

Public Relations 

PR focuses on engaging with the general public through the media to boost the identity and visibility of a brand. This is where earned media—press releases, press hits, podcasts, interviews, features, etc.—plays a significant part in gaining your business attention, credibility, and ultimately leads and sales.

Where corporate communication is centered around brand building, strategic public relations is all about the image and how to preserve it in the eyes of the public. This function can be defined as a deliberate, planned, and continuous attempt to build and maintain mutual understanding between a company and the general public, commonly known as media relations. The public’s impression of any organization is a crucial factor for success, so controlling the narrative that the public hears is also essential.

PR pros are responsible for managing an organization’s reputation and must be skilled in maintaining good relationships with various reporters and publications for their specific clients. They are also responsible for damage control with the public if your brand faces a reputation crisis or backlash that could tarnish the company’s image—one of the reasons why it’s pretty important to know you have a stellar PR firm on your side.

Related Reading: 11 Most Common Misconceptions About Public Relations

Marketing 

Last but certainly not least, B2B marketing encompasses strategies and initiatives that promote your brand’s products or services to a target audience—existing customers, prospects, potential investors, etc. It details why consumers should come to you with their needs (i.e., what makes your product or service better than the rest).

A well-thought-out marketing strategy includes, but is not limited to:

These digital campaigns aim to highlight what your products or services bring to the table. You want to show new and loyal customers your benefits, features, and differentiators as well as advertise discounts and sales promotions, and lead them down the sales funnel to making a purchase.

Now that we’ve covered the definition of each, let’s move on to what they have in common.

How Communications, Public Relations, and Marketing Work Together

Despite their differences, there is overlap within each field’s required duties and roles for your brand. 

The most obvious is that all three require the ability to communicate effectively—both verbally and in written form—to connect and engage with other human beings.

But beyond the similar skillsets, corporate communications, public relations, and marketing all play a different part in advancing a brand. Collectively, these three cogs’ aim is to develop, share, grow, fortify, preserve, and advance a brand, which requires collaboration at all times. 

But truth be told, while these three roles are all interrelated, two are distinctly more connected—and this is the part that many get wrong. 

While many lump PR in with communications—the truth is that B2B PR should be part of your marketing strategy. 

Here’s why:

Communications is about sharing company news internally and with clients, and often press releases become a part of that. This is why many believe PR should fall under the comms hat.

But looking back at the Public Relations description, it’s clear that much like digital marketing, PR is focused on bringing a brand to the public, building its credibility, sharing its story, and amplifying what it offers. These goals align 100% with marketing. And the truth is, the best marketing campaigns are enmeshed with PR. Marketing covers paid, shared, and owned media, while PR tends to focus on earned media. To make the biggest impact, each type of media needs to be incorporated into a holistic strategy—our strategy is called the Mixed Marketing Model

the messy middle

We used Google’s study on the Messy Middle to help us map the buyer’s journey—and as the name implies, it’s messy. The more effective way for a brand to reach their target buyer amidst the mess is the right mix of paid, shared, earned, and owned media—and that means Marketing and PR living under one roof. 

Each of these components has their place and time in the buyer’s journey, with some components having short-term pay-offs while others play the long game. The key is knowing when to implement each part of the strategy and how they all fit together. 

While marketing and PR work hand in hand, it’s important to note that they also partner with comms teams to make sure that the hard work they do to bring leads and potential employees to the brand doesn’t stop at conversion. 

Communications teams pick up where marketing and PR leave off, picking up the torch and becoming the internal champion for the brand. One cannot replace the other. They each target a specific area to bring maximum benefits to your organization. 

Need help making sure your marketing and PR are two peas in a pod? Want to learn more about how marketing and PR can collaborate with your comms team to drive holistic success? Let’s talk

We’re always here to help.

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