Blending Public Relations And Marketing


By Miriam Maina – Kamau , mCIPR

I am one person who enjoys a good advert. There are some that win my ‘awards’ and others, well let’s just say they tried. Whenever I see an ad on TV, a bill board, a newspaper or even in a magazine like BL, I try to imagine what the team that sat down to research, develop the concept, the ideas and come up with a story went through and what they were looking to achieve.

Research has shown that people buy stories. Each and every business has a story to tell; the struggles, the losses and the wins. A classic example is the recent campaign by Unilever, celebrating Blue Band in East Africa:  ‘Helping moms grow great kids since 1955.’ The digital campaign was one that captured life as it was in the 1950s to the present day. It told a captivating story that falls in the social media trend popularly referred to as ‘throwbacks.’

Well, the marketing and sales team on the campaign may have recorded higher sales but the public relations (PR) team had their great wins too. The systems theory of PR states that PR is part of an open system and an organization should look into its environment and adjust its business activities to meet the needs of its stakeholders, echoing into the writings of Jim Macnamara, a public relations thought leader, who says that for PR to be effective, the team should strive to work with other departments within the organization.

Well, in the line of duty, PR practitioners only celebrate four achievements: increased awareness, behaviour change, attitude change and return on investment. In practice, before engaging in any campaign, PR must come up with strategies that will get them to realize the desired outcomes. Questions will range from ‘was there an increase in awareness among the target group following the campaign? Did the stakeholders’ behaviour and attitude towards the company change or improve? During and after the campaign, did the company record an increase in revenue/ sales? PR will be put to task to proof these wins and how to measure is a story for another day.

The art and the science

It is typical for different departments to have their own objectives tweaked from the corporate objectives. It can be an uphill task trying to get various departments to accommodate each other’s objectives and targets. But one line that PR tends to be connected to or associated with is marketing. In fact, established PR practitioners have come a long way in trying to distinguish the two and have even discouraged companies from establishing ‘blended’ positions such ‘PR and marketing managers.’ That notwithstanding, it is common to find PR and marketing roles overlapping.

As the Chartered Institute of Public Relations simply puts it:  ‘PR is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics.’

According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, marketing is the activity and process of creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large.By combining PR and marketing, organizations are able to fully consider the art and the science of relating to consumers, which will ultimately boost the bottom line more quickly and effectively.

It is therefore important for organizations to diversify their brand portfolio and ensure that they focus on all three types of content: paid, earned and owned. As a result, the wins will be having content that is owned, PR that is earned and advertising that is paid.

What can PR  bring to the table?

As we said earlier, people buy stories. Campaigns should tell more than a story and evoke emotions which will turn into actions such as choosing to buy a product over the other. PR professionals are known for being great at telling stories; their job is to create an emotional connection with the audience in order to drive brand awareness and foster trust with the company.

With storytelling being the most crucial campaign tool, PR must strategize how best to get the story out. Well, as easy as it may seem, here is where marketing comes in. The avenues for reaching customers having multiplied tremendously in recent years, it has become a challenge for PR to understand where to tell that story.

Armed with the current and most relevant statistics, the marketing team will easily show off their in depth understanding of various channels and justify the decisions made. Marketing is able to identify and even predict where the company’s message will be heard the most. Therefore, working together, PR and marketing will provide insight into how the other department ticks, and that will lead to a more cohesive company story that is sure to be heard by the right people.

Complementing each other perfectly

PR is the art of influencing the different stakeholders. It is about building and sustaining a reputation. Marketing needs good PR to be effective. Indeed, the two functions complement each other perfectly. PR reaches new audiences and builds company credibility through third-party validation and marketing keeps those audiences engaged with the brand through consistent content. Together, public relations and marketing departments can accomplish goals more effectively. And the audience receives relevant content in places where they are ready to consume it.

How to measure PR/ marketing collaboration

There are a number of ways to measure the success of any PR /marketing collaboration. They include sales statistics, social media reach, number of engagement on social media, media impressions, website traffic, brand mentions, among others.

PR and marketing can and must collaborate. The opportunities for better results are immense. Measuring performance will build everybody’s confidence in the value added by collaborative working. We all have more to learn about how PR and marketing can contribute to success in the future.

PR and marketing professionals can improve the measurement performance of both departments by working together closely. If they demonstrate their value through better measurement, they will both win praise from upper management and approval of larger budgets.

Twitter: @mishkamau







Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here