PR And Marketing May Be Converging, But They're Not The Same

Whether it’s PR agencies hiring chief creative officers or advertising agencies creating award-winning PR campaigns, media convergence has resulted in a lot of changes to the traditional agency structure. Omnichannel marketing has become the default expectation of today’s consumer, and that means everything from PR to advertising to marketing often falls under the responsibility of one person — the CMO.

And since it’s much more likely for a CMO to have a marketing background than a PR background, PR pros are increasingly finding themselves reporting to individuals with very little understanding of public relations. No matter how much convergence happens, there will always be fundamental differences between PR and marketing. And these differences may not always be apparent to the consumer — the line between paid and earned media has never been more blurred — but behind the scenes, there’s a critical need for CMOs to better understand the differences such as:

  • No, you do not get to review and approve that article before the reporter files the story.
  • No, we cannot ask them to include more links to our website in that post. 
  • No, the publication will not provide us detailed web traffic reports on their article.
  • No, the TV station will not send us their footage, so we can upload it natively to our Facebook page. 



Despite being responsible for both PR and marketing, today’s CMO has yet to realize they’re accountable for understanding and managing these fundamental differences:

Creative Control – Marketers are used to having complete control over what an ad looks like, where it appears, and what it says. In PR, creative control resides with the publication, not the brand. They’re not obligated to publish anything you share, nor will they give you the opportunity to review what will be published.

Measurement – Marketers will try to measure the CPM, CPC, CTR, CPL, or CR of any and every piece of content. How many people read that newsletter? How many conversions did that post drive? What’s the cost per impression of those videos? Because you’re not paying for the media coverage you earn, you’re limited in the data you collect.

Self-Interest – I understand that new product is your brand’s biggest initiative this year and you’re spending millions to promote it. That doesn’t make it newsworthy or shareable. That doesn’t mean a reporter or editor will want to write about it. That’s why brands use paid advertising. PR pros, on the other hand, find the balance between the brand’s message and the needs of the audience.

Responsiveness – Ask a brand marketer to review and approve a TV spot in an hour and they’ll laugh at you. That requires teams of people to weigh in, several rounds of reviews, not to mention legal approval! On the PR side of things, speed is the name of the game. You may only get an hour (or less!) to develop a statement, identify your on-air talent, and do the interview. In PR, you’re working on the reporter’s timeframe, not yours.

Just because PR and marketing have converged in the strategy, budget, and even on the org chart doesn’t mean they’ve converged everywhere. Today’s CMO may not be a PR expert, but he or she does have to recognize, appreciate, and adapt to the differences that exist. It requires changing how you recruit, strategize, manage projects, and develop people. Minimize, or worse, ignore, these differences and watch as your top talent grows increasingly frustrated, your campaigns lack positive value, and your metrics fall well short of your goals.

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