How to Align Your PR and Marketing Strategies to Get More Out of Both

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Marketing and public relations generally aim for the same goals, such as business development, increased sales and employee recruitment. When done well, both work together to build awareness and shape the perception of a brand in the marketplace.

However, the mindsets needed to succeed in each of these fields are very distinct. Recognizing this fundamental difference can help companies align their PR and marketing strategies and get more out of both.

Earned media vs. owned media

While both PR and marketing are creative fields, they diverge widely when it comes to the issues of timing and control over content.

Marketers are used to being in complete control of both timing and content. Their focus is typically “owned media,” such as the company website, video and social channels, or paid media, such as social media advertising, sponsorships or traditional advertising. The marketer leverages their expertise to help the client shape the content and determine when it goes live to maximize performance.

PR, on the other hand, involves collaborating with the independent press on earned media, which hinges on the ability of the PR professional to present their client as interesting or remarkable enough to earn coverage. The media outlet typically dictates timing and has final control over the content.

Understanding what the press is looking for and when is absolutely essential to a successful PR campaign. That isn’t necessarily what marketers spend their time thinking about. In fact, great marketers are often so deeply immersed in their client’s brand and direct interactions with its customer base that they find it difficult to mesh with the very different perspective of the press.

Marketers are generally proactive, then. They develop and execute a strategy on a timeline of their choosing. While good marketers may create content in response to events in the news, it takes a different type of expertise to actually be in the news.

Good PR firms are also proactive in their strategy and outreach, but great PR firms are specially equipped to be reactive when necessary. An experienced PR pro recognizes time-sensitive opportunities and is skilled at guiding their client through the act of seizing the moment without straying from the core message.

The resulting press materials can be quite different from the content and messaging in the company’s marketing channels, but both can still be fully reflective of the brand — one is just filtered through the unique needs and expectations of the media.

The key to marketing and PR collaborating successfully is for each (and company leadership) to acknowledge that they are different disciplines with their own best practices and that each has a unique role to play in a comprehensive external communications strategy.

Related: Do You Need a PR or Marketing Professional? Here’s the Difference

Building media relationships vs. building marketing assets

Many firms offer both marketing and PR to their clients. But for a firm to do both effectively, they essentially need to treat marketing and PR as distinct entities, each with its own responsibilities and devoted resources. That often is not the case.

With PR, in particular, dabbling just isn’t as effective. When an editor or producer works with a PR agent on multiple stories a year, a rapport develops that will leave the journalist more open to pitches. PR firms devote a lot of time to fostering new connections, maintaining existing ones, and leveraging those relationships to get coverage.

Networking and collaborating with press typically isn’t top of mind for marketing firms that are more focused on key deliverables, such as a new website. While there are certainly exceptions, many full-service firms wow the client with marketing and settle for relatively modest PR results.

Why is that? For one thing, it’s easier to neglect PR than marketing. Everyone notices if your company has a terrible website, but they won’t necessarily notice the absence of your company in the press. As a result, PR can easily become an afterthought in some organizations.

To do PR right — and drive traffic and leads to that great website your marketing team built — resources must be explicitly dedicated to earned media, be that an outside PR firm or an internal team. If PR is simply an add-on to a marketing strategy, you’re going to leave a lot of value on the table because a marketing department or agency really can’t be expected to develop the relationships needed to generate press coverage in addition to their other mission-critical responsibilities.

Related: Should You Start With PR or Marketing First?

Conflict vs. collaboration for marketing and PR firms

There is a magic that happens when a PR firm and a marketing agency are both fully dialed in on behalf of the same client. When a marketing firm working with one of our clients produces stellar research, language or insights as part of a marketing campaign, it helps us think more clearly about how we are positioning the company in our work and can create additional value for members of the media and their audiences.

Similarly, when the PR team brings in media placements beyond what the client envisioned, it creates a momentum that spills over into everything the client is doing on the marketing front. Suddenly, social media, email marketing and conferences all perform beyond expectations as they are used to share and reference high-quality media placements in noteworthy outlets.

The best approach is for PR and marketing to be in touch frequently and closely follow what one another is doing. They shouldn’t try to control each other but instead, look for ways they can help each other. PR campaigns are often stronger with great marketing assets and press coverage often leads to great marketing content.

Two firms at the top of their game playing off each other works like jazz, the give and take amplifying the ROI for both investments. When marketing and PR inspire one another through their completely different perspectives, it’s a beautiful thing.

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