Public Relations versus Marketing

By Emily Carle

The age old question, what is the difference between public relations and marketing? Or, even more basic than that, IS there a difference between PR and marketing? In the College of Communication and Information, this question is even more apparent, as it encompasses programs such as advertising, public relations, public communication studies and more. On the other hand, the marketing major is housed in the College of Business at Kent State University. Immediately, this brings up a red flag—there has to be a different way of thinking.

According to Tim Roberts, an instructor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the term public relations means “managing communication between an organization and its publics by building meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships.” In even simpler terms, it is constant communication and relationship building with stakeholders.

On the contrary, marketing is more product/service oriented, according to Roberts. Part of the marketing mix includes the five P’s: product, place, promotion, people, price which all indicate a specific business- or transaction-minded process. Once the transaction is complete, the marketing function is complete but a good public relations team will implement a continuous relationship building process.

Granted, each area has some overlap, and they do have some similar goals. For example, both public relations and marketing can utilize the RACE formula (research, action, communication and evaluation), but core messages could differ. Again, public relations is looking for long-term positive relationships while marketing is hoping to build long-term customers; marketing is focused on the product or service.

Though the future is uncertain, public relations and marketing are different from each other in today’s world. This doesn’t mean they are not important to the other. In fact, they are both vital for an organization to execute. As a professional in either field, it is also important to understand how both work. For young professionals looking to start off in an organization, it can be critical to understand the functions of public relations and marketing in the workplace.

As a student who has taken many different classes in these fields, I think it is crucial for college students to be well-versed in all areas of an organization’s communication. From public relations to marketing to advertising, to all forms of communication, a recent college graduate is much more marketable by being well-versed in all of these aspects. In fact, it has almost become expected for students to understand business issues outside of their specific field of study.

My advice for students looking to work in a career field similar to the ones mentioned above, take classes in other career fields. For example, if you’re a marketing major, make sure you look into taking Principles of Advertising or Principles of Public Relations and vice versa. Even just this basic knowledge will help out. Also, media literacy is a minor within the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and can be helpful in rounding out various forms of media and communication.

It never hurts to know more outside of your major and learning more about public relations and marketing can be incredibly helpful.

Check out this video ( produced by Kent State students Jared Slanina and Kaitlin Krister that delves deeper into the PR versus marketing debate.

Emily Carle is a senior applied communication major and marketing assistant in the Dean’s Office of the College of Communication and Information.


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