Though marketing and public relations are generally divided as tasks and not taken together, as time goes on, and business-consumer relations become more transparent, the two disciplines become more and more interrelated and inseparable. By coordinating marketing and PR efforts, companies can gain access to a whole world of consumer information and insights.
As marketing, with the help of social media, becomes more and more transparent, both efforts converge on the simple truth that companies are now expected to engage consumers in conversation. Communication is no longer a one-way street, it’s a dialogue between brands and consumers, and consumers will feel disconnected from a brand if they don’t receive that dialogue.
The traditional roles of marketing and PR can in some ways be defined by the fundamental aspect of the appeal it makes to the consumer. Public relations is traditionally a functional discipline, appealing to utility and usefulness, while marketing is often an emotional exercise at heart, appealing to the psychological and sentimental needs of a consumer.
Marketing is there to optimize the relationship with consumers that PR has already built by developing its emotional aspect. This optimization can affect engagement, acquisition, and retention of customers and brand loyalists.
Nowadays, customers generally start the purchase process long before they spend any money, using search and social network research. Because of this earlier research process, marketing needs to be much more proactive than in the past, working to build these customer relationships long before their traditional starting places.
In the past, consumers were equipped with much less information and were more easily swayed by marketing claims that today would seem questionable. Without the capacity for limitless research, the power balance was different. Today that balance has shifted, and consumers have more power than ever before. Brands are best served by representing a continuous and reliable standpoint on issues, and being able to show consistency is highly valued. In this case, PR’s job is to ensure that messaging is consistent, thought-provoking, and crucially, useful.
PR and marketing can work together by gathering actionable information about consumers. Think tanks, focus groups, and other ad hoc panels to gain consumer insights. There is no substitute for real conversations with customers, which can reveal details of your business that even you don’t understand.
In this new world of consumer dialogue, marketing needs to relax and allow PR to lead the conversation with the consumer. PR leads the way, and marketing uses its data to fine-tune and extrapolate on the direction determined by PR. The coordination of qualitative and quantitative data, in this market, is absolutely indispensable and indeed crucial to success.
Marketing and PR are now two sides of the same coin, mutually-symbiotic disciplines that can be difficult to differentiate. Though this might lead to some complication in the office, the coordination and synchronization of these fields will lead to much more fulfilling customer relationships and more productive relations. Do this, and consumer engagement, acquisition, and ultimate retention rates will soar.
Russel Cooke is a business consultant and writer who lives in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @RusselCooke2.