Whether you studied marketing as a college student or were fortunate enough to have a mentor, you may already understand the important part public relations plays in a cohesive marketing campaign and may have mastered the public relations definition, too.
There is lots of crossover between the two: The practice of PR includes, but isn’t limited to, speeches, art, publicity placement, communication, staged events, literature, media relations and the preparation of collateral materials designed to reinforce campaigns and individual efforts. If these sound familiar, it’s because marketers use these methods, too.
In fact, marketing without public relations deprives one of valuable tools that allow a product, cause or service to be promoted effortlessly and at zero cost to the marketer if sophisticated techniques are used to generate buzz. Think of marketing as an umbrella: Without all spokes extended beneath the cloth, you’re going to get wet.
Bournemouth University scholars have concluded that the roots of marketing are deep and “as old as civilization itself.”
Today’s websites and retail shops may have replaced Greek and Roman commercial hubs where everything from crops to gossip were on display during market days, and the eras spanning this vast chasm experienced meteoric change, particularly when the Industrial Revolution spanning the 18th and 19th century kicked in.
Marketing as a discipline took its rightful place somewhere between arts and sciences and business, the catch-all word we use to describe all things commercial. Technology, distribution and, importantly, the ability to position one issue or product so it appears superior to competitors became the contemporary model on which marketing principles are grounded.
Buffalo State University Professor Ron Smith knows a thing or two about the origins of public relations and has proven his prowess by authoring several textbooks on the subject. His history of public relations includes an impressive list of forefathers that reach back over 100 years.
Midway through his roster is the name Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, who is regarded by the PR community as the father of public relations. He was the first man to insist behavioral reaction to “persuasion campaigns” is the secret to success and his PR techniques are still practiced today.
While Bernays is widely credited with putting a behavioral spin on public relations, the actual term was coined by a man named Arthur W. Page whose influence on this discipline is so important, a society is named for him and Pennsylvania State’s College of Communications bears his name, as well.
Between Bernays and Page, the groundwork for today’s exciting PR techniques were laid and despite the insertion of mega-technology, new principles, methods and theories, the foundation these men established remains as relevant today as it has for more than a century.
Faculty members within the University of Charleston’s communications school created a PowerPoint presentation that succinctly covers the history of this discipline , but here are highlights:
-Public relations took a distinct philosophical direction in the 1920s when men like Bernays and social science gurus like Ivy Lee and Rex Harlow sought to infuse public relations with more behavioral theory and practice to exploit the sociological and psychological aspects of this emerging field. Scientific persuasion became an often-used term by professionals convinced that feedback, value system analysis and the dispositions of targeted audiences (in concert) were positioned to drive PR forward.
-By the 1960s, sophisticated public relations professionals were being hired to do more than promote items found on store shelves and within the “Yellow Pages” of directories. Swaying opinions was no longer strictly the domain of business interests; social issues like the Vietnam War, the women’s movement and other hot button topics were now aided and abetted by the skillful use of public relations to stir emotions and drive action.
-Contemporary public relations efforts relied as much on strategies as history by the 1980s. Buzz words, phrases and themes stuck people’s minds because clever phraseology drove campaigns and created the era of The Spin Doctor. Relationship management remained a core principle, and the Internet gave rise to a new playbook, but the single biggest influence has inarguably been the rise of social media that has reinvented the concept of instant communication.
Just about everyone in the field of marketing has an opinion about the true relationship between marketing and public relations, but one of the most succinct and understandable comes from Janet A. Krenn who serves as the Communication Co-Chair of the oldest and most prestigious professional organization in the PR field: The Public Relations Society of America.
According to Krenn, these twin sons of different mothers are reaching a showdown in which the two disciplines are fighting for their identities in a world that seems intent upon lumping the two together. Her take the subject offers food for thought as she admits that figuring out where one ends and the other begins “seems like a scholarly exercise…”
…until a PR-trained professional comes to roost in a marketing department, at which point, that person will be asked to define how PR techniques can be applied to meeting marketing goals. Must one hire a mediator to settle this dispute? Not exactly. But it’s important to understand how things fit together properly these days.
It helps to make comparisons
Marketing, say those attempting to define the word, is an organizational function that’s both art and science in which it’s the job of professionals to intuit, create and deliver value so both the marketer and recipients profit. Conversely, public relations, say purists, help bring people and organizations together to produce goodwill in ways that don’t deter the marketer from making a profit.
In general, marketing aims to deliver services and goods to target audiences and efforts to do this are generated within the company and aimed outward. Public relations are put into play to change the behaviors of people so a relationship develops between the consumer and the product/service/idea. Imagine two people facing each other in conversation to get a better grip on subtle differences:
-Steve says, “I’m going to San Diego, and I found an airline deal that’s awesome.” That’s marketing.
-Sue tells a friend, “Trust me; Steve got a jaw dropping deal on a San Diego trip.” That’s public relations.
-Steve brags, “I got a great deal; a great deal; a great deal; a fabulous deal.” That’s advertising!
The interface between marketing and public relations functions
If properly aligned, marketing and PR can use the same objectives to position a product, service, company or cause so everyone’s on the same page. This means that a game plan requires specific input from all parties so there are no contradictions when print, media, social media, graphics, copy and other components are rolled out.
While marketing does the research, PR is a major beneficiary of those results so PR plans complement and support those marketing efforts. Further, the promotional aspects of such collaborations should be viewed as equally valuable in the drive for success.
…a partnership between marketing and PR is essential. Particularly for those of you who know the critical role that must be played as PR and SEO (Today’s marketing Holy Grail: Search Engine Optimization) cohabit. According to “Forbes” magazine , there may be no future if these two can’t find ways to play nicely with each other.
When did this imperative begin to dawn on business leaders? When Google and friends drove home the huge role content plays in messaging, making it highly relevant and positioning itself as “the only place you need to go for one’s search engine objectives.” This new way of doing business didn’t so much slide onto the PR/marketing scene as crash into it. Starting with the occasional link from site to publication, Precise targeting became the name of the game as digital marketing came into its own promising huge benefits for those who understand that brand visibility is the future.
Among the common strategies currently used by marketing/PR consortiums are shared responsibility for events, promotions, blogs and, says “Forbes,” Content Calendars that allow all parties to tap events and promotions to produce newsworthy content that furthers campaigns. Says John Rampton, the article’s author, “Nowadays, content has become the glue that binds search engine optimization and public relations together.” A level playing field, whether you work for a corporation, non-profit or public relation agency, is the ultimate objective.
Need we remind you of the critical nature communications plays in a partnership like this? Of course not. You already knew that. And the more PR- and SEO-focused professionals use a common template to plug in data for delivery to Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, high-profile blogs and whatever the next go-to social media darling happens to be, getting and staying cozy is your ticket to money and success.
What part will you play down the road?
It goes without saying that you need your industry as much as your industry needs you. So affiliating with the marketing and public relations professional organizations that always have the backs of both universes (e.g., the American Marketing Association; Public Relations Society of America; and affiliated student arms) is worth the membership dues and fees required to carry the card, attend the workshops and network with folks walking in your shoes.
And if those shoes happen to be creatively mismatched—say the left one is your marketing shoe and the right one is your public relations shoe—well, the people you work for are going to discover in you a valuable asset, on and offline!