As marketing professionals continue to adopt public relations principles to define their practice it might be time to reiterate some fundamental differences between the two crafts.
At its root, marketing is based on a transaction. I provide and promote a product or service. You buy it. While marketing uses some public relations concepts to stimulate the transactional behavior it seeks, its bottom line is sales of the product or service to a consumer. Marketing defines the value of that product or service and uses all kinds of tactics, including public relations, to convince consumers to make the deal.
At the core of public relations practice is the desire to elicit mutually beneficial behavior from an organization and its various constituencies. Unlike marketing, its responsibility and reach extend far beyond consumers.
What is most important to note is public relations’ pursuit of consensus, finding common ground between the interests and needs of an organization and its stakeholders and constituencies. By its nature, this is a two-way street, and it is important for PR professionals to always keep this in mind.
A significant part of many PR pros’ work is focused on one-way information transfer, an important first step on the path to behavior. After all, you can’t get anyone to do anything without building awareness and stimulating interest in an organization, product or service. But a critical step on the road to consensus and mutual benefit is engagement, and this should inform your thinking every day you show up in the office.
The PR pro says to those people, those stakeholders, those publics, those audiences out there, “We want to get to know you better. We want you to know us better. We want to engage you in the life of our organization.”
Engagement builds understanding. Connecting with consistency and honesty builds credibility. Credibility creates trust. Trust leads to supportive behavior.
There are no winners and losers in the nirvana of best public relations practice. Everyone wins. Here’s hoping some folks in Washington, D.C. can subscribe to this fundamental public relations philosophy.