The November issue of Business MK featured a piece by the owner of a PR firm which was entitled “Good Cop, Bad Cop: Why PR and Marketing Must be Kept Distinct”.  It so exasperated me, I immediately wrote this reply to the paper…

Painting two complementary disciplines of the communications industry as polar opposites is at best, utter nonsense, and at worst, damaging to the industry as a whole.

The writer seemed so rooted in the past – marketing is all about ‘broadcast’, and PR is all about ‘relationship’ – as out-dated a view as the belief that comms still fits neatly either ‘above’ or ‘below the line’.

They are very different disciplines, of course – but “kept apart like love and hate”?! Strong words, substantiated only by an assertion that marketing is “big bold and aggressive… it screams at you to buy the product! It rubbishes the competition!” (Actually, there are laws against the last one).  No successful or credible brand (or agency) could behave in that way and survive.

And why does marketing behave in this terrible, shouty way? To sell stuff! The barefaced cheek of them! The writer asserts “it’s goal is simply to drive sales and create profit”.

Wait. Isn’t that why we’re all in business?

Effective marketing long since ceased to be about who can shout the loudest to the biggest crowd. Consumer targeting continues to become an ever more sophisticated science, and marketing excellence now centres on creating a dialogue. It’s about connecting and engaging with your customers and your wider stakeholders. Creating interest and trust, and sharing relevant additional content. Things a (one way) Press Release can only dream of.

Ah, yes. The Press Release. Whilst modern Marketing is busy engaging with its customers, PR is still schmoozing the journalists.

PR often relies on the hope that an editor will print their piece. It’s fate lies at the whim of the news agenda – when a big story can blow a carefully orchestrated campaign out of the paper. Something that could never happen to a properly targeted and paid for ad campaign.

And herein lies the true distinction between Marketing and PR. Accountability. PR has always struggled to accurately measure ROI and effectiveness, with the worst PR firms misleading their clients by confusing total readership with how many people actually engaged with their piece.

The thing is, the real threat to PR isn’t Marketing. It’s Social Media. More and more businesses (from SMEs to major corporates) are realising they can quite successfully undertake their own ‘relationship building’ campaigns free of charge. The PR agencies that haven’t yet grasped this need to wake up and join the 21st century.

And this blurring of the lines throughout both the comms strategy and the channels that deliver it, is precisely why PR and Marketing teams need to bury the hatchet and start working together. Far from being sworn enemies, they are both key to delivering a successful outcome for the client. The piece states “The two do not and should work together”, but collaboration is always more effective than combat. And if war is declared, that would be a shame.

I know which side I’d put my money on.