The intense and growing interest in marketing among the leadership of colleges and universities has led to a merger of public relations and marketing in the minds of folks who have a superficial knowledge of the fields. These are two distinct functions that have a connection, but it is important to understand they also have critical differences.
Marketing is a function that focuses on an organization’s customers and potential customers and it principally involves the sales force of that organization. To deliver its sales message it must choose a product or service value, provide and communicate that value to customers, and create and maintain a market for an organization’s goods or services. The classic four P’s of marketing are product, price, place and promotion. Promotion is where marketing overlaps with public relations.
Advertising is a marketing tactic when it delivers a selling message. It seeks to differentiate a product or service. Advertising can be the province of public relations when it is used to convey an institutional image or to address an organization’s position on a public issue, for example.
Public relations, unlike marketing and advertising, addresses all of an organization’s key constituencies, its stakeholders, publics and audiences. Public relations is based on forging mutually beneficial relationships with these key constituencies. In contrast, marketing is focused on stimulating transactions between the organization and its consumers and potential consumers. Public relations creates and maintains an environment in which marketing and advertising can be successful.