PR, marketing, marketing PR (MPR), communications. You would think all of these words describe the same thing and you wouldn’t be too far from the truth. In theory, Public Relations, marketing, communications are three different things. In practice, the boundary between these three disciplines is getting more blurred by the day, especially since the rise of new media, the Internet and the ever-present social media platforms that shape our everyday lives. The famous PR pactitioner and blogger Mark Borkowski says that ‘The PR and marketing landscape has forever changed, thanks to the ever-present giant that is the internet – never was this more obvious than when I looked at my audience at the SearchLove conference, which consisted of a plethora of technophiles looking lovingly at their laptops.‘ (Nov, 1st 2013). He couldn’t be more right. You just have to look at the people on the tube, and realise that we are stuck to our screens all day long, reading, watching, sharing content that, for the most part, is produced by PR and marketing.
Viral videos and stunts are the perfect example that new technologies and the ability to put your content online so quickly has made the relationship between PR and marketing blurrier than ever. Is PR part of marketing ? I’d like to think not but many scholars and authoritative sources seem to think that PR is actually one marketing technique. Kevin Moloney, in his book Rethinking Public Relations (2006), declares that PR and marketing should work alongside now and not see themselves as arch-enemies : ‘Put together PR and marketing disciplines and they are better able to handle multifaceted propositions. […] PR and marketing techniques together offer the marketeer a wide-ranging variety of expressive modes (words, photographs, visuals, sounds) and a multiplicity of message distribution channels (e.g. editorial, paid advertisements, logos, competitions) to communicate the complexity in a persuasive way.‘ (p135)
And it is true that if you type ‘PR and marketing’ in the searchbar of Mashable, you end up with a long list of various articles about PR, marketing, advertising and so on. Everything gets blurred and the disciplines are starting to blend into a giant profession of ‘PR-marketing-communication-advertising-brand-journalism’. If you look at job offers, it is clear that today, PR practitioners need to be able to juggle many different tasks borrowed from marketing, PR, advertising and sometimes journalism.
It is clear that the Internet and social media have forever changed the perception that we have of PR and marketing, and it has definitely changed the practices but are the two disciplines going to merge or will they find a way to exist alongside and work together ? I hope for the latter, even though I know it will always be more difficult than ever to define and explain my profession to my family and friends. As if it weren’t complicated enough…
K. Moloney, Rethinking Public Relations (2006)
Further Reading :
J. L’Etang, Public Relations, concepts, practice and critique (2008) – Chapters 2,3,7 and 8