Do I Need Public Relations, Marketing or Publicity?
*Before you read this post please check out my definitions of public relations, marketing and publicity. It’ll take you less than two minutes.
PR is the process of building and maintaining strong relationships with the people that are critical to the attainment of a goal.
Marketing is compelling a defined person or group to take a specific action in support of your business – because they want to.
Publicity is awareness – the one-way communication of information/your story/your message to an audience en mass.
There’s a lot of confusion over the difference between public relations, marketing and publicity – most of it by people that are supposed to know better! The public relations industry in particular has struggled for decades – including the two that I’ve been working in it – to communicate exactly what the commercial value of it is.
Our customers see PR as smoke and mirrors; expensive smoke and ridiculously priced mirrors. Under no circumstances should they attempt to do themselves. Journalists are a prickly bunch that needs careful handling. You can destroy your business with a badly written tweet. The truth is that public relations isn’t only about the media – traditional, online or otherwise. It’s about relationships.
Relationships are what entrepreneurs do. They question you need to ask your self when figuring out whether you need PR, marketing or publicity to help you grow your business is, “what do I want them to do?”
If you want them to have a relationship with your organization then you need help with public relations. Public relations is about building and maintaining relationships. It is based on trust, mutual benefit, a shared value set, honesty and transparency. It’s also about the long-term success of the business, rather than short-term gratification. It’s a marriage, rather than a one-night stand. Editorial pitching with the aim of securing coverage is not, generally, public relations. Think about it – you don’t even have a relationship with the journalist in most cases, let alone one with the intended audience.
If, on the other hand, you want people to do something – then it is marketing support you need. Marketing is about getting people to take action on behalf of you [or your business] because they want to. I’ll say the last part again… because THEY WANT TO. If the action is taken grudgingly because you’ve kept asking or because you’re bombarding them with messages in the hope of beating them in to submission then it is not marketing. It’s intimidation!
If you want the world to know about your product, service or business – without an attempt to either build a relationship [a transactional purchase for an app, for example] then you need publicity. Publicity is the communication of information to an audience. Most media coverage is publicity – if it is news then it’s almost certainly publicity; editorial bylines can have the intention of building a relationship with the reader – but it’s the exception rather than the rule. Advertising is paid publicity.
So, what do you need most in order to grow your businesses?
- Relationships based on trust?
- People taking action, because they want to [I’d argue that you need to build relationships before people will willingly take action on your behalf]
- Lots of people to know about you – without any intention of building a relationship or them taking action?
I can only think of a handful of scenarios where the latter is the case.
Startup and SmallBiz PR & Marketing tip: Understand the difference between public relations, marketing and publicity – and which one your business needs to achieve your next milestone.
If you have questions then please feel free to get in touch – you can email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on +1 647.773.2677
COMMS.BAR provides early-stage companies with right size, right time communications strategy advice to help them figure out what they need to do, when they need to do it and remove any unknowns from their strategy. The company is based in Toronto, Ontario.