By Leigh Andrews
With a focus on what exactly PR entails, I wrote about how it overlaps with the marketing and media industries. Public relations officers do everything they can to raise awareness about their clients and earn them editorial space in the media. If a new product launches, the media will be invited to an event to experience it and find out more, in the hope that they will write about it. These briefings and events often take place after hours, which is why journalists are said to ‘work around the clock’. Added to this, members of the media are generally sent out samples of new products, also in the hope that they will provide publicity about the product. But there is a limit to how far this can be taken, as ‘freebies’ to the value of R100 or more need to be declared to your editor and run the risk of producing a biased article that touches on brown envelope journalism.
But that’s a topic for another article. This month, I want to focus more strongly on marketing and how it differs from seemingly related industries. As mentioned in my previous article, I recently compiled basic information on the PR, media and marketing industries for a six-month internship. The two main areas of confusion that arose were the differences between marketing and advertising, as well as between marketing and PR. Think about it … can you clearly differentiate between them? A simple way to explain this is to think of how the media makes money – through subscription/sales, as well as marketing itself and selling advertising space/time. At its most basic, ad sales representatives are responsible for generating income while marketing staff are responsible for generating interest.
The difference between marketing and PR then? Well, it’s a bit more tricky to differentiate for those not involved in either industry. Both are used to spread messages and are intricately woven into ‘media relations’, but that’s where the similarity ends. While marketing and advertising appears in the media because it is paid for, publicity is generated because the subject has earned the space or time. This generally means that the information is relevant to the specific content mandate of the media house and the PR officer has successfully pitched
the content based on a good relationship that has been built. But there’s also unexpected publicity, which is unsolicited or given without any effort on the part of the PR officer if the journalist stumbles across the content of their own accord and deems it worthy of inclusion or investigation. This would be unexpected on the part of the public relations officer, as they did nothing to initiate the coverage. But it’s not all good news - In an article
I wrote late last year on improving the sometimes volatile media/PR relationship, I pointed out some of the main barriers to making the relationship a symbiotic one – public relations officers send repeated, irrelevant press releases on to the media, while journalists don’t bother to get back to PRs to let them know whether they will be using the information. A whole new can of worms is opened when exclusive content is pitched, and frustrations
tend to run high in news rooms and publicity offices alike when there is a certain expectation that a press release will be used and isn’t.
Then there’s the difference between sales and marketing. In 2010, I wrote
that while these departments often have completely separate structures and mandates, they have the same core focus – to increase awareness of a set group of products and services. While sales and marketing were previously seen as ‘so completely different’ at a varsity level that marketing courses were linked to communications and journalism, while sales incorporated ‘business basics’ and presentation skills. However, times have changed and so have job descriptions. UNISA has taken this into account by offering
a joint ‘Introduction to Sales and Marketing’ course, stating that “sales and marketing have long gone hand-in-hand as subject fields,” adding that “sales is often regarded as an integral tool for the successful marketing of any product or service… the fact is that no matter how good the company’s marketing, until a sale takes place, there is no income.”
Can you think of further examples of ‘overlap’ between fields that were previously regarded as entirely separate? Let us know your thoughts by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org