Public Relations and Marketing

This is a piece of work I submitted for my Public Relations module at Plymouth University,


Critically analyse the view that the proliferation of online media platforms has significantly changed the relationship between the PR and Marketing function.


1.0 – Introduction 

The proliferation of online platforms has sparked new debates in the relationships between PR and Marketing. Section 2.0 will be identifying and comparing the fundamental functions and similarities of PR and Marketing with attention to both internal and external publics. Alongside a key model that helps to explain the relationship and how they work together. Then, Section 3.0 will explain how the growth of the internet leads to the phase of ‘social media journalists’ and how the acquisition of news and insight has changed.

2.0 – Functions and Relationships Between Marketing and Public Relations

2.1 – The Function of Marketing

The key fundamentals of marketing is to identify, anticipate and satisfy consumer needs by portraying the added value of the product or business onto the consumer, with the aim of improving sales and overall profits (Kotler, 2011; CIM 2015). There are many arguments that the CIM’s definitions of marketing is incorrect or misleading because profits and monetary factors are not the only reasons and outcomes of marketing practices, common examples of organisations who have different goals are charities and governments, in other words, profits are not their key aims (Blythe, 2005). Furthermore, socially derived negative connotations are directed towards marketing because of the thought persuading someone to purchase something that they do not need or want. Nevertheless, marketers take responsibility for putting the customers first, which can be seen to be different in other parts of businesses.

The concepts and priorities within marketing have developed and changed alongside societal and economic fluctuations. With the initial concept stemming from the product and portraying a specific product in its most appealing state, it leads to a more sales orientated process. The most common goal for early marketers was to increase sales, whereas nowadays the aims are more diverse. The process can be seen to be more customer and societal based, meaning marketers understand customers to be more intelligent and be more rational with the majority of their purchases, resulting in marketers having to concentrate their efforts into looking at the product from a customer point-of-view. Marketers are now looking into a more long terms approach, the lifetime and loyalty value of a customer, instead of a single transaction-based process (Ravald and Gronroos, 1996). Businesses try to achieve these outcomes through the use of McCarthy’s (1964) Marketing Mix, otherwise known as the 4p’s (Product, Price, Promotion and Place).

2.2 – The  Function of Public Relations 

Public relations aims to build and maintain a positive and favourable relationship between a certain organisation and its publics (Gordon 2011; CIPR, 2018), this is usually closely related to the reputation of the organisation through conveyed internal and external communications (James and Hunt, 1984; Blythe, 2005). One must consider how PR can be both external and internal, real examples of this can be from educating staff members of the culture to publishing a press release sharing business success or achievement. Also, common reasons for having a PR department is for crisis management. Referring to the external messages that are portrayed when a major issue has arisen, whether this is redundancies to illegal doings. Identifying and preparing for these situations is a forgotten function of PR, the majority see it as a form of marketing positive stories where in fact this can be seen to be more important (Ashcroft, 1997).

Developing upon this, Verčič et al (2001) suggest there to be four key elements for PR, both having control and influence over internal and external publics. These include;

  1. Managerial – The responsibility to manage public image to maintain trust and a relationship with specific publics
  2. Operational – Prepares and controls the messages and communications of an organisation
  3. Reflective – Keeps the PR up to date to with societal standards and values in order to maintain relevance and social responsibility
  4. Educational – Mentors and educates employees on how to communicate effectively, ensuring culture is maintained in regards to internal publics

2.3 – Connections Between Marketing and Public Relations

A common perception is that marketing and public relations have the same aims and goals, both in regards to monetary return and customer perceptions. Turney (2001) offers a succinct visual representation of the similarity and differences between the two. Table one shows the interpretation taken from of Turney’s discussion.

Marketing Public Relations
Purpose Promotes the transaction of a good from business to a consumer. Builds a mutual relationship between an organisation and its publics.
Short-term Goal Increasing the aggregate number of sales. Effective positioning and reputation.
Long-term Approach Heavily financial, the goal is related to profitability. Maintaining a positive relationship.
KPI’s Number of sales or ROI. Public support or opinions.

Table 1: Interpretation of Turney’s (2001) ‘Differences between Marketing and PR’ 

The common perception of the two elements being very similar is a popular topic of discussion in the business industry. There is various literature that supports either side of the argument. Ehling et al (1992), offers the description that both marketing and PR are essential disciplines within any organisation. This is seen to be a generic statement, however they also go on to express them as being complementary, even if they have slightly different functions and outcomes (Estanyol, 2012). By understanding the difference in the two and how they have specific similarities, it’s essential to develop knowledge and opinions on which of the departments are seen to be the dominant of the two. 

Literature suggests there to multiple outcomes of the two departments working coherently, these can range from subsetting, serving or equalling one another (Kotler et al, 1978; Lauzen,1991). There is no final answer on how well they work together but it can be seen to be case sensitive, meaning, all organisations will have a different viewpoint and perception of how they impact one another.

Published literature support both sides to this story. Some believe that the concept of PR is embedded and falls under the function of marketing, meaning marketing is the overarching element in which PR falls in (Hutton, 1996; Estanyol, 2012). Developing upon this, academics also consider PR to be in supportance of marketing, so instead of saying it is a part of marketing, one can consider PR to be an integral part of the overall marketing plan (Hendrix, 2004). Satawedin (2005) supports this by expressing how marketing cannot function at it most effectively level without the consideration and interaction to their PR. 

Hutton (1996) expressed the idea that PR is part of marketing, as was previously mentioned. One must be cautious and critical in this debate because Hutton (2010) changed his stance on the topic by supporting that there needs to be a healthy balance relationship between the two elements in order to achieve what is best for the overall organisation, this highlights how this argument can be seen to be primarily internal and it forever changing with time and societal flucatations.

The discussed literature offers for and against arguments for how PR and Marketing are similar yet different and how it is tough to fully identify one as being the dominant of the two, or as equal counterparts. In order to help with this discussion the IMC was introduced in order to offer a compromise for them both. Anantachart (2006) supports the idea of having Integrated Marketing Communications, which is seen to be an umbrella over all of the functions of Marketing and PR. Nevertheless, academics still considered this to comprise the statue and influence PR has in regards to marketing and the overall business’ performance (Rose, 1996). 

2.4 Public Relations in Action

Developing on from the individual and collaborative functions of the two elements. Understanding how they are implement in regards to key publics is essential for someone to understand. Grunig and Hunt (1984), an established academic in the industry, offered a four part model that explains how PR can function and its purpose. The first section is ‘Press Agent / Publicity’ the core of this revolved around one way communication through manipulation of the key publics, without any feedback or research. One would struggle to identify any examples of this in action in the 21st century due to the one way flow of communications. This lends itself to the ‘Public Information Model’, through the use of press releases and similar output, showcasing specific information about an organisation (Grunig, 1992). This helps to reduce the perceived biases because the journal can be seen to be more trustworthy in comparison to the organisation sending out whatever message they demand.

The “Two Way Asymmetrical’ model is a traditional approach that is used to persuade an audience with the backing of research (ie; studies, questionnaire, interviews). With the final outcome leading to a transaction of some sort. The final, and most commonly used, model is ‘Two Way Symmetrical’. Referring to a relationship and balanced situation, meaning both parties have control and listen to one another’s ideas and opinions. Instead of primarily pushing for key publics to perceive an organisation in a certain way, this is essential to building a relationship instead of a previously desired transaction. (Wilcox and Cameron, 2006).

Upon research, a point for discussion is that everyone involved in PR and Marketing will always have to consider their key publics but the messaging they send out or how they portray their organisational will always have an element of bias or a hidden agendas/messages (Williams, et al, 2002; Morris, 2014). Meaning, organisations can be seen to using a more Two Way Symmetrical approach which is deemed to be beneficial and more effective because of the dual interaction and it is better for pleasing key publics but when the concept is stripped back to its core, it still is basic manipulation. Offering an opposite point of view, pleasing key publics is a drawback because key publics will have different targets and it will be very difficult to please them all. An example could be that the directors may want to improve cash flow or financial performance and a method could be cutting jobs, this would obviously not please employees or the general public. This is important to keep in mind, because publics can either be internal or external, sometimes both. This has been become easier with the rise of the internet especially in regards to relationships through continuous and constant communication between an organisation and its key publics. 

3.0 The Impact of Digital Platforms to the functions of PR and Marketing

3.1 Web and PR 2.0

With the rise of users of the internet and social media platforms it is understandable for there to be an increase in the amount of PR and Marketing practices. Referring back to Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) Two Way Symmetrical model, this has opened the door for organisations to easily communicate and connect with its external publics. 

3.2 Digital Platforms and Relationships Between PR and Marketing

Rubel (2009) offered knowledge into where PR stood within the marketing industry before and during the rise of the internet. Key parts to take from this is that trust has now been taken away from publications and given to content creators and peers within social media channels and how users receive information, in the past press releases in magazines and newspapers were the primary source, whereas now, users tend to find the majority of their news from digital platforms. Meaning, PR is being used as a tactic of Marketing. This could be from a digital version of a newspaper or from social media blog posts, a cheaper alternative instead of a strategic marketing campaign (Solis, 2008). Nevertheless, one could say the power has shifted over from the ‘Public Relations Practitioner’ and the organisation to the social media users (Smith, 2010), promoting the essentiality of have a two way relationship.

Because of this, organisations need to be extremely careful because like previously mentioned functions, PR can help in cases of damaging events where as marketing is more ‘sales driven’ according to academics. 

An example of both PR and Marketing working cohesively  was ‘MANarama’. The National Football League changed their man to help raise money for Prostate Cancer UK (McKinlay, 2018). This shows that through the power of the internet, especially Twitter, a great marketing campaign can be produced and the PR can help publice the message to a greater audience. This returns the debate back towards the discussion of integrated marketing communications.

4.0 Conclusion

4.1 Summary of Findings

The discussed literature offers for and against reasons for what reasons and how PR and Marketing can work cohesively and collaboratively. The literature points to it being situational, meaning it depends on the organisation and the current ‘perceptions’ held by the key publics. It is close to impossible to please all publics but maintaining mutual relationships between them and the organisation is essential which explains the usage of the Two Way Symmetric model. Digital platforms have added a different dimension to the PR/Marketing debate because it has forced the two functions to work together due to the amount of public interaction and have a key message (integrated marketing communications) or approach is essential to building public relations. 

4.2 Limitations

This is little research explicitly stating whether or not PR and Marketing should be the same function within a business from a digital point of view, but a note for future research could be to help identify how digital has impacted this and whether or not they should be separate or together. In most cases, this will come down to the individual organisation and the demands and opinions of the internal publics.


5.0 References

Ashcroft, L(1997) “Crisis management ‐ public relations”, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 12 Issue: 5, pp.325-332


Blythe, J. (2005). Essentials of marketing. 3rd ed. New York: Financial Times Prentice Hall, p.2.


CIM, (2015), “A Brief Summary of How Marketing Works”, [Online] [Accessed: 28/03/19] 


CIPR, (2019) “What is Public Relations”, [Online] [Accessed: 25/03/19] 


Ehling, W. P., White, J., & Grunig, J. E. (1992). Public relations and marketing practices. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 357–395). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.


Estanyol, E. (2012). Marketing, public relations, and how Web 2.0 is changing their relationship: A qualitative assessment of PR consultancies operating in Spain. Public Relations Review, 38(5), pp.831-837.


Gordon A. E., (2011), “Public Relations”, NY: Oxford University Press 


Grunig, J. E.  (1992). Excellence in public relations and communication management. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.


Grunig, J. E. & Hunt, T. 1984. Managing Public Relations. London & New York: Routledge


James G., Hunt T., (1984), “Managing Public Relations”, 6th Edition, Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich


Kotler P., (2011), “Marketing Management”, Millennium Edition, NJ: Pearson Custom Publishing 


Lauzen, M. (1991). Imperialism and encroachment in public relations. Public Relations Review, 17(3), pp.245-255.


McCarthy, E. J. (1964). “Basic Marketing”, IL: Richard D Irwin. 


McKinlay, R. (2018). 11 of the best PR campaigns and activations of 2018 (according to you). [online] Available at:  [Accessed 2 Apr. 2019].


Morris, T. (2014). Are Grunig and Hunt still relevant?. [online] Available at:


Ravald, A. and Gronroos, C. (1996) “The value concept and relationships marketing’, European Journal of Marketing, 30, p. 10-30


Smith, B. (2010). Socially distributing public relations: Twitter, Haiti, and interactivity in social media. Public Relations Review, 36(4), pp.329-335.


Solis, B (2008). May 25, 2008. PR Secrets for Start-ups [online] 


Sriramesh, K. and Verčič, D. (2003). The global public relations handbook. New York: Routledge.


Verčič, D., van Ruler, B., Bütschi, G. and Flodin, B. (2001). On the definition of public relations: a European view. Public Relations Review, 27(4), pp.373-387.


Wilcox, D.L. Cameron, G.T. 2006. Public Relations. Strategies and Tactics. Eighth Edition. Pearson. United States of America.


Williams P, Broniarczyk S, Nakamoto K, (2002), “Special session summary consumers perceptions of persuasive intent: Examining Consumer Persuasion Knowledge”, Advances in Consumer research, Association for Consumer Research, Volume 29, pp 305-307