The blurring lines between PR and marketing communications

The lines, they are a blurring between corporate communications and marketing communications! Taken in a larger context, it would make it right into the centre of the debate wherein one school says that marketing and PR are two different functions and another one vouching that they are more like different tools and channels aimed at the same thing – to thrive in a business and communicate effectively with the stakeholders, especially the consumers.

Binding the two different realms of marketing communication and PR/corporate communications is the wonder adhesive of content. At the core of both marketing communication and PR communication is content that is aimed at the target audience. Equally important of course are the strategies/objectives behind the content and the design of visual communication that makes them come alive and register themselves in the minds and eyeballs of the consumers.

Often the marketing communication departments take forward the communications and campaigns that are on paid platforms whereas the PR/corporate communications teams are engaged more with the earned media (media coverage used to be the raison d’etre of all PR professionals, though not anymore as PR has effectively widened its ambit) and the owned media (websites, your organisations’ pages/presence in the various social media platforms, videos in the public domain (YouTube, Vimeo), newsletters, annual reports etc.

The strongest argument in favour of PR as part of the larger Marketing universe is the fact that one of the four Ps of marketing is Promotions, the others being Product, Pricing, Place and Promotion. PR is as much about promoting a brand, an idea or an image as is an advertisement which is undisputedly and rightly taken as a tool of marketing. Also, who is to say that even in the advertisement, there is no PR or should not be? In fact, as any true blue PR professional would tell you, many of our advertisements actually need a brush of PR thrown in to make them more effective. Something which brand after brand is doing with great success.

The blurring or the merger of PR and marketing communication at several junctures is not to deny their separate existence. Though increasingly marketing communications occupy the pride of place within all marketing functions but still, marketing extends beyond it. Through diligent research and relentless market study, marketers gather data about consumer sections that are most relevant to them. Often communication may become secondary to the all-important pricing game in a fiercely competitive segment or product innovation in a fast-changing product category. Even within marketing communication, the marcomm professional may be more concerned with data, reach and ROI whereas the PR professional though mindful of the data is often more keen on the buzz being created in the relevant segments.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the communication requirements of a company and its product and services. So while one set of communication is directly to sell those wares, another set needs to ensure that the reputation and image of the company, based on which the consumers will loosen their purse strings are in a good place. Essentially the integrated Communications professionals need to fill in any gaps wherever required, through the power of communication in its many avatars. They have to ensure that the same is done with alacrity, creativity and strategy. Rightfully then integrated communication is the new buzzword which instead of looking at any plausible turf wars between marketing and PR, looks at the opportunities to leverage each other’s strength to create a new set of value propositions for the company and the brand.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Raja Ghoshal
Raja Ghoshal is a Business Journalist turned Corporate Communication professional who is presently looking after corporate communications at the diversified Apeejay Stya & Svran Group. He was earlier working as a Deputy Director (Corporate communications) with industry chamber CII. An MBA in Marketing, Raja’s hobbies include creative writing, public speaking and writing poetry.

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