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Blurred lines: the marketing, PR and advertising mêlée (not the Robin Thicke song…)

Posted by Sanjay Dove on 5th May 2015

I was once told that the difference between PR and marketing was thus: marketing is the art of saying good things about yourself; PR is the art of getting other people to say good things about you.

I’ve always quite liked this description because it helps me explain to my elder relatives, who don’t really know what PR is, what I do for a living. It’s a nice simple way for them to get their heads round the fact that I work in neither journalism nor advertising.

But anyone who thinks that statement is still true is kidding themselves, really.

While PR used to be all about producing content that got others to say good things about you in “earned” media, practices have moved on now in the digital age. First we took on more “owned” media, once owned (excuse the homonym) by marketing — like producing content for blogs, social media and white papers. Now we’re beginning to take on more “paid-for” to promote content, which was owned mainly by advertising.

Today, PR is now simply the art of brand storytelling, whether that’s across earned, owned or paid-for media.

I used to be a bit sceptical of paid-for media for two reasons. Number one, as a consumer, I ignore pretty much every ad I come across. I never click on paid-for links or banners, and I automatically move past the first search term on Google, which is often an ad, almost without even looking at it. I very rarely click on Facebook ads, which are supposed to be targeted at me, and I close pop-ups without a second glance. Number two, as a PR, I used to feel that paying for media was, well, sort of cheating. Where’s the skill in that?!

However, in the last year or so we’re starting to see PR agencies produce more content for paid-for media — and it’s reaping rewards. Success has been driven by companies’ increasing abilities to draw actionable intelligence from big data to better understand how customers interact with brands across different devices and media at different points of the sales funnel.

As a result, paid-for has moved beyond being simply a “shot in the arm” to amplify PR voice, to being a targeting tool, getting content in front of the right people at the right time with pin-point accuracy. Finally I might get some adverts I’ll actually be interested in!

The benefits of integrating aspects of marketing and advertising with your PR activities are huge. Essentially PR, marketing and advertising are three sides of the same coin looking to achieve the same business goal. So why separate the lot entirely? PR professionals now have an incredibly broad skillset. We get the art of brand storytelling and how to get these stories in front of the right people at the right time, across earned, owned and paid-for media. A joined-up approach with PR means you’ll find it easier to stay on message, produce cohesive content and, well, you’ll have a much less disjointed approach to achieving what you wanted to achieve in the first place. And who doesn’t want that?

As for explaining my job to elder family members, I’ll now tell them I’m a “brand storyteller” than a “PR”. Sounds much more exciting, doesn’t it?

Photo credit: flickr

Sanjay Dove

A senior account manager at Wildfire, Sanjay has extensive experience with executing campaigns for brands in the IT, cybersecurity, marketing tech, semiconductor and consumer tech industries — with notable clients including Acquia, RepKnight and Samsung. He is equally at home working with small startups to build their brand awareness and credibility, and working with the big tech brands to manage their reputation within their given industries. Sanjay joined the agency in October 2014 after working for a couple of years in technology copywriting and sports PR. An English Language graduate from the University of Manchester, and a Journalism postgraduate from the University of Salford, Sanjay confesses to being a bit of a grammar nerd. While away from the office, he enjoys playing cricket, watching Chelsea play football, listening to jazz, and playing the piano and the drums. But not all at the same time. Obviously.