Why Public Relations Are Not Marketing

What the PR person does

The public relations activity is made up of the work performed by the PR person/ team to:

  • get documented regarding facts and check the source of information employing one’s own research work;
  • research and segment the audiences, profoundly knowing their way of thinking, speaking, and expressing themselves;
  • prepare the communication agenda considering the following: the message that is intended to be sent, the available channels, the environment, the resource funds required for performing the communication, and the most efficient impact which can be generated by enforcing the agenda on the image capital of the organization/client;
  • plan the means, ideas, and content to be sent to the target audiences, and achieve a support platform meant to sustain the set agenda;
  • adapt using the means and content of the environment so that the ideas communicating the identity of the organization would remain stable in the long run;
  • monitor the impact that the performed actions have on the target audience in the long run;
  • carefully analyze the steps taken by the competition by tracking and comparatively reviewing their external public relations speech as compared to their own impact further the public relations communication;
  • develop actions that would continue/capitalize further on the already obtained results;
  • prevent the crisis situations or promptly respond as soon as they occur, and prepare plans for the situations initially believed to be unpredictable, based on the principle “hope for the best, plan for the worst”, etc.

The speeches are characteristic of the public relations structure considering the following categories of target audience: internal audience of the organization (employees, volunteers, collaborators), management, and external audiences (clients, providers, NGOs, local authorities, opinion leaders, etc.). The public relations speech must be shaped, first of all, according to the organization’s interests, and second of all, according to each public that it addresses, after being segmented according to the criteria required to make the speech relevant. The speech of the PR representative implies influencing, subtle persuasion, inspiration, and putting ideas where nobody would have thought they could occur, to be assimilated without noticing the “packaging”.


The credibility of the sent message, between reply and feedback

The public relations person has a specific type of speech regarding the managerial activity component, influencing the leader to make the best decisions for the organization using the advice that he gives. The same PR specialist has another type of speech toward the internal audience regarding quality management. For instance, with Raiffeisen Bank in Romania, the construction of the quality management speech was based, in 2007, on a research of the common values of the members in Romania, from all matters, which was run through the filter of the managerial decisions to promote those values which are in agreement with the organizational policy, of those which were most frequently to be found with the employees.

Structuring the speech in terms of the importance for each audience, the public relations person comes, using the messages he sends to play an influence and inspiration role in the public relations structure of the organization. Certain aspects are at stake in the speech delivered to the management, knowing that these will “weigh more” than others when the speech is addressed to another audience. At the same time, internal communication must be congruous with external communication because, as Philip Kotler stated in Marketing Management, there is also that interactive marketing, the one between the company’s employees and the potential clients – in other words, what it is found out about the company from those working within it, feedback to the employer branding.

(keep reading ↓)

Kotler’s Triangle

Graphics by Irina Chiriță, 2017

For instance, a company wants to communicate the “openness” value by utilizing branding as an organizational identity attribute. At the same time, the chief financial officer is a friend who has to receive all the expense accounts to be signed exceeding $10. Of course, sending a particular piece of information via the official channel will be challenging when something completely different comes out of the “back door”. The reply to be received by the company’s potential clients, who come in direct contact with its representatives, will be standard. However, the feedback will be a different one. The input is an implicit, indirect, spontaneous, unconscious, and challenging-to-control reply, which seems obvious nonverbally and para-verbally. It can emphasize or disproportion the answer, which is direct, conscious, and previously thought about.

Let us think of an example. The reply that I, as a client of X bank, receive to the questions I ask at the counter is satisfactory from the viewpoint of the requested information. However, the feedback I receive nonverbally is one of dispatch, coming from a frustrated young lady who has reached her limit at the end of the day, confronted with who knows how many cases which have put her last ounces of patience to the test, and which she has decided to put up with for the salary she cashes.

The public relations policy at this level concerns the management of the reply delivered to the client, but feedback is often no longer considered. As a counterexample, in the USA, one of the most highly appreciated banks by the clients beats the drum about offering the highest interest rates and the most disadvantageous financial conditions. Still, the clients continue to resort to it because they are always welcomed by constantly sincere and happy bank clerks.


What marketing does differently

Planning the marketing activity refers to markets (not audiences) and is oriented towards satisfying a specific sales target on a particular market. Marketing activity is an economic activity placing the product at the disposal of the needs at a price/cost ratio as advantageous as possible for the trader.

The public relations speech is addressed to the audiences, which can significantly interfere with the markets: several audiences can be found in the same market or several markets in the same audience. For instance, BookFest and BookLand are addressed to different markets but to the same public: the one interested in training, development, and improvement. Thus, in these markets, the following markets are intertwined: specialty books market, fiction market, electronic books market, and audiobook market. All the consumers of these markets can be found within the audiences interested in what reading means. The fact that the offer comes from specialized providers is a component that must be taken into account by the PR specialist in segmenting the audiences and constructing the message so that the event brand identity would be communicated to all the niches as clearly as possible. The brand is addressed both to the audience and the places, as it is a blend of marketing and public relations (although it tends towards marketing more because it can be measured quite precisely, unlike general relations, which generally have difficult results to quantify).

The two activities are interdependent, but marketing focuses on tasks, activities, and tangible things, and it is closer to sales in a mathematical spirit. In contrast, PR focuses on people, relations, and intangible things and is closer to HR in the human spirit. Public relations communication finds its place in the marketing mix through the contribution it brings by customizing the relation between the product/service and its buyer.

Thank you!

Happy branding!

Marcus Victor Grant

Communication strategy and human resources consultant

Photo copyright © Irina Chiriță, 2015-present

Text Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2007-present. Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu in 2017 of the article De ce relaţiile publice nu sunt marketing published in Romanian at the 24th of November 2012 on Discerne. The original material was written in 2008. Text Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved. 

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