Public relations (PR) and marketing are often discussed in unison. Here at Agent99, we do both, but our core function always has been and always will be PR. That said, a good PR agency will offer their clients aspects of both and there is naturally some overlap between the two.

But what is the difference between them? That’s a question we often get asked. In short, Public Relations is a communication process where companies build connections with the public for mutual benefit. Marketing is a business activity used to promote, advertise, and sell products and services, and tends to be a wider discipline that can include PR.

Beyond the definition, here are a few key ways they differ:

Audience and Purpose

A PR message addresses the general public or specific target audiences, which can include investors, partners, potential customers, employees, clients, and even people who are in no way related to the brand. The goal of the communication is to build trust and, as the name implies, good relationships with the public. To do this, the communication moves both ways like a conversation. Marketing, on the other hand, often uses one-way communication to reach current and potential customers. The goal of reaching the target audience via PR is also to build a positive reputation, but specifically for the purpose of eventually converting them to customers, or to maintain them as loyal customers if they are already fans of the brand.


PR helps the company in general and aims to place it in a favourable light to achieve business objectives. Marketing has many metrics, but always involves the impact of campaigns on a company’s bottom line, since acquiring and retaining customers leads directly to revenue. Marketing can be a measurable, sometimes short-term business investment, whereas PR is a long-term, more qualitative effort aimed at ongoing reputation management.

Marketing is about a specific activity such as encouraging shopping, brand merchandizing, and selling new products. It can be more specific than PR, but still encompasses everything in the cycle of acquiring and retaining customers.  There are many steps and ways products move from an idea within a company to a final product purchased by consumers, and marketing aims to optimize all aspects of this cycle.


For its communications, PR uses third party media or influencer platforms to pick up news and other topics of public interest to share a brand’s positive stories. Some examples are newsletters, press conferences, featured stories, speeches, public appearances and similar forms of non-paid communication. Coverage is earned, not paid for, so although a company may write a press release or give a speech, it can be covered by various media in different ways, which is out of the company’s control. Although the lack of control may seem like a drawback, it helps build trust with the public if the information comes from a third party source.

PR and marketing campaigns can share media channels such as TV, radio, print, and digital publications, but PR does not involve paying for the coverage, whereas marketing activities (where PR is not included) produces content for paid or owned channels including various suitable media outlets.

Overall, PR and marketing go hand and hand, each with its specific focus that should be integrated. Social media has blurred the lines between the two, since it falls into the overlap.  However, PR and marketing are both business functions that often retain their own distinct purposes, focuses, and media to reach the target audience. It’s important that your PR agency incorporate both marketing and conventional public relations strategies to get the best results.

Intern Agent Sofia