Open day attendees yesterday left my session with unanswered questions about the distinction between public relations and marketing (my faculty offers both degree courses, and a marketing lecturer colleague was to follow my talk so I had to choose my words with care).
I often turn to public affairs or not-for-profit campaigns for illumination of the distinction. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth provides a good case. His campaign to raise awareness of climate change is undoubtedly public relations; yet it has nothing to do with marketing (I doubt that the commercial success of the movie is uppermost in his mind).
These were the defining qualities of this movie as public relations. It is:
- Polemical: he challenges his critics, is able to depict the ‘bad guys’, while forcefully making his own case;
- Persuasive: there’s no lack of numerical and scientific evidence;
- Personal: We can see why the 2000 US election result still hurts him; his sister’s death from lung cancer allows him to draw parallels from past attempts to deny the evidence of tobacco’s harm; but I couldn’t see why his son’s injury was included here.
Marketing may have its 4 Ps; here are my 3 Ps for public campaigns (essentially the same as ethos, logos, pathos).