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What Is the Difference Between Public Relations and Marketing in Business?

PR and marketing often overlap in business strategy.

The terms “public relations” and “marketing” are often used interchangeably. While it’s true that they’re closely intertwined, public relations and marketing have different—yet equally important—roles in business. And with advances in communication technologies (hello, social media marketing), the line between the two is even more blurry, and there’s often overlap in how companies use public relations and marketing as part of their overall integrated marketing and communication strategy.

So, how are marketing and public relations different?

What Is the Difference Between Public Relations and Marketing in Business?

First, let’s take a look at the official definition of each function:

Public relations: The strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”1

Marketing: The activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”2

In other words, public relations is about building relationships and an organization’s positive image. And marketing is the promotion and selling of a product or service—or even an idea—to consumers.

What Does Marketing Look Like in Your Business?

The marketing mix is typically thought of in terms of the four P’s (product, price, place, and promotion), but in this modern digital age, a marketing strategy goes far beyond sales calls and magazine ads. Today’s marketing departments are using new, creative strategies to reach their consumers, and they are often responsible for activities like digital marketing management and marketing to top social media influencers.

A company’s marketing strategy and activities could include:

  • Advertising
  • Direct marketing
  • Sales e-mails
  • Market research
  • Digital marketing management 
  • Social media marketing
  • Brand marketing materials
  • Trade shows
  • Influencer marketing 

What Is Public Relations?

Unlike marketing, public relations relies on earned media (think news stories)—not paid media (think ads)—to promote and build a company’s image. In the past, public relations professionals turned to traditional tools like press releases, events, and newsletters to do the job. But with today’s communication technologies, PR pros are now using a mix of traditional and digital strategies to communicate with audiences and engage stakeholders and key influencers.

In your company, public relations may include:

  • Advertising
  • Media relations
  • Crisis communications
  • Social media strategies
  • Speaking engagements 
  • Social media marketing
  • Community relations
  • Internal communications
  • Events
  • Website content  

Learn More About PR and Marketing Strategy With an Online Master’s Degree

If you want to elevate your career and gain the knowledge and skills to devise creative, effective marketing and communication strategies for your organization, consider earning an MS in Marketing.

Through a master’s in marketing program, you can learn how to create, execute, and evaluate captivating campaigns that include a mix of traditional tools and the newest marketing strategies—such as social media marketing and influencer marketing.

And when you earn your marketing degree from a university with online master’s programs, you’ll benefit from a convenient, flexible online learning format that makes it possible to earn a graduate degree while balancing work and life commitments.

Today’s business marketing landscape is changing rapidly. An online marketing degree program can help you gain the skills you need to stay ahead of the latest marketing strategies and advance in your career.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Marketing degree program online. Expand your career options and earn a master’s degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,