PR vs. marketing: Can they share the same goal?

Can PR do more than change attitudes or increase awareness? This author explains why PR should be able to help marketing create leads and track sales.

I violated the rules of the Network of PR Professionals LinkedIn group.

I didn’t mean to, but according to the group rules members can only post things that are about traditional PR.

I posted the summary of Marcus Sheridan’s webinar about the types of content you can create to generate leads. Because the blog post said “generate inbound leads” instead of “attract website visitors” or “increase brand awareness,” I broke the rules.

You see, I believe a few things:

1. We should measure public relations—not publicity—to sales results.

2. Public relations professionals need to gain some basic marketing skills or our industry will become defunct.

3. Public relations is the best place for content development because we are, after all, writers.

4. Good content does more than attract website visitors or increase brand awareness, it generates inbound leads for the sales team.

If you know me well, you know that being scolded over breaking rules of any kind is mortifying to me. I apologized and said I understood the rules, and that I wouldn’t do it again.

But the conversation didn’t end there. The email’s author said:

I agree with you that generating content—especially in the digital age—is a primary function of any PR department or campaign. Really good marketing copy is essential for any organization that wishes to engage with visitors on its website, blog, Facebook page, etc., and get them to bite on various calls-to-action within the content.

But marketing is not PR. An ideal PR objective specifies desired outcomes within target publics, such as increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes and behavior. None of these are sales functions.

So here we are—a traditional PR guy and me at an impasse.

I grew up in the traditional PR world, so I get it. But I also see some big changes coming in our industry. Changes that mean companies will only work with agencies and consultants who can measure their efforts to sales results.

As much as I love the work I’ve always done, it’s impossible to measure “increased knowledge and/or awareness, or changed opinions, attitudes and behavior” to revenue. We know intuitively that it works and that without PR a brand or company will suffer, but we can’t measure PR with hard numbers.

However, we can measure integrated traditional PR, digital media and some basic marketing, sometimes in as little as 60 days.

Should we leave content creation that results in inbound leads to the marketing folks because their function is to help sales? Can PR be responsible for it, as well?

If it’s the latter, what’s the harm in discussing it with our peers via a LinkedIn group so we can all become better professionals that know how to change with the times?

Gini Dietrich is founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, Inc. A version of this article originally ran on Spin Sucks.

Topics: PR

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