A defining question

24 Sep

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).

2 Responses to “A defining question”

  1. Owen Lystrup 25/09/2006 at 7:43 am #

    PR is like when you like go out and get movie stars popular and stuff. I think they call it, like, publicity and stuff.
    Marketing is when you like dress people up in costumes and have them stand on a corner and yell at people walking by and, like, try to get them to buy a product and stuff.
    Relationships good. Media, publics, corporate, clients and otherwise. Mass message spewing with no feedback or listening, bad.
    What you said was so astute and didactic, I thought I would dumb it down.

  2. Lauren Vargas 01/10/2006 at 4:45 pm #

    Which version should I use for my own communications class?
    Now, what do you tell PR counselors who are asked to also put marketing into the mix with their duties? How does the PR person keep true?

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