Is it PR or is it marketing?

Lisa Flounders, Managing Director

Traditionally, the value of PR came from an influential third party talking positively about you, your brand and your product (or, if there’s no such thing as bad publicity, it didn’t even need to be positive). This jackpot-level of storytelling is earned, not paid, since it is timely, relevant and interesting. Because it hasn’t been bought, it is all the more impactful, and all the more trustworthy to your audiences. In 2024 this still rings absolutely true, and is a crucial part of the service we offer.

But audience expectations have changed, and the black-and-white differentiation between your owned/paid output and your earned coverage has diminished. This is the result (in part, surely) of social media; the content we consume is put in front of us by the influencers and celebrities that we follow, brand endorsements that often look and feel like straightforward, personal recommendations. But more often than not, that message has been paid for – and usually, we’re aware of the fact.


We as consumers know it’s an ad, but we accept the endorsement anyway. This approach, which blends the third-party storytelling element of PR with the paid-for, on-brand message element of marketing, has filtered into more traditional outlets too. Sponsored content is a familiar (although potentially pricey) method of securing media coverage in newspapers and magazines which looks and feels like editorial. It is often prepared by a journalist, but you’ll have a say over the finished article.

And when it comes to socials, where does your organic content management sit? Is it a PR task – It involves digital networking, community building, and you don’t want to be too ‘salesy’ with it. Or, is it marketing? You own the channel after all, you can say what you want.

It is in these grey spaces – the sponsored content, the influencer campaigns, the community/lifestyle-led content on your Instagram platform – that PR as a discipline has evolved and is illustrating its worth in new ways. An authentic, value-add narrative versus sales-led advertising is the crucial differentiator here.

News and feature coverage aside, PR is about so much more than the channel used to tell your story. The skills required to persuade people to tell your story on your behalf are not to be underestimated, however neither is the ability to identify and tell that story in the first place. Ultimately, PR is not just brand recognition, but brand perception. It is about positive sentiment. It is about establishing advocacy among your audiences using the best tools for the job. That might be third-party coverage, it might be sponsored Instagram content, it might be a community event, it might be an award win.

So it is PR. But it is also marketing. Find an agency that can do both, and you’ll find a cohesive, results-led campaign that drives results.


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