It’s almost five years since Carnsight Communications opened its doors, over ten years since I switched to PR and almost twenty years since I started in marketing. It’s a time for reflections, so here’s one of mine. Looking back, working in marketing was a fantastic grounding for great PR. It continues to be as the two roles move ever closer.
The difference between PR and marketing
One of the things we regularly get asked is ‘what is the difference between PR and marketing?’ In simple terms, PR is about earned media – earning your place in publications. Whereas marketing (or specifically, advertising) is generally about paid-for placement – such as adverts, sponsored pieces or what we used to call advertorials. We’ve written more in our advertising versus PR post.
But the lines are continuing to blur. It’s no secret that the media sector has struggled this year, with publications closing their doors and a number of job losses. There are far fewer staff roles (permanent positions) and many more freelancers. We try and do our part as a PR agency by subscribing to many of the publications we pitch to. We’ve also given support by donating and contributing this year, as well as working with journalists as freelance consultants.
Supporting publications as businesses
We pride ourselves on pitching in quality editorial content and products to relevant titles. But we also know that alone is not enough to keep publications and running. So, we also encourage clients to get involved by subscribing, considering sponsored opportunities if the opportunity is right, and getting involved with events and awards.
We also work closely with marketing and media teams to see if they’re planning to run ads and where they might be placing them. This is particularly pertinent for local press and smaller publications where editorial and commercial are more closely aligned. We wouldn’t ever expect editorial placement purely because of advertising, but it’s important to understand how it all fits together. And that’s not to mention the rise in influencers which takes this to a different place again.
Starting out in marketing gave me a great grounding for understanding commercials. Managing budgets and managing spend comes in a lot earlier – especially if you’re in client services. In my experience, commerciality isn’t a big part of PR training, but I think it should be – especially now.
Understanding messaging and brand and campaign propositions has also been key. Advertising campaigns start with a brief and key message: a line or two that everything can be boiled down to. What’s the essence of the product or service? That is something that’s at the very heart of PR, which is why we often start with a Three Lens Messaging Session in our client work.
A journalist once asked me to give my pitch to him in 10 seconds during a phone call. Scary, but actually a really excellent idea. If you can’t get across what you’re trying to say in that time, how can you expect it to be an idea they can buy into? We spend a long time crafting press releases and accompanying emails to make sure the essence can be communicated quickly and simply. We use that approach over the phone or in person, too (or we used to!)
PR working hand-in-hand with marketing
Working closely with marketing agencies such as Sharp Thinking Marketing and Rapport Digital makes for a really effective, joined up process. For example, PR and marketing often work to different timelines, and while messages could be led by advertising, they’re likely to be interrogated more in the PR process.
So, being able to understand marketing’s role and approach and ensure it fits alongside ours makes for the most successful campaigns. We can also share resources, such as information on the target audience, tone of voice and good, high res photography.
PR is very much about relationships. Relationships with your team, your clients, journalists and influencers. It’s about building trust, being respectful, delivering and helping each other out. The power of building relationships was definitely something I first learnt in the world of advertising. It’s relationships and connections which make for the best results.
Understanding creative agencies
We work with a range of creative and strategic marketing agencies, helping to promote their work and profile their key people. I still have a very special place in my heart for the advertising world. And having worked with the sector press for over 10 years, it’s a landscape I know very well.
Advertising is something I’ve loved since I was little – I actually used to fast forward programmes on my VCR to get to the adverts! I remember the great campaigns from Levi’s, Guinness and even the Green Cross Code (!) word-for-word to this day. I hope I’ve passed that on to the wider team. As we’ve seen this year, good advertising can be pivotal to creating movements and changing lives.
So, starting in marketing and advertising has been invaluable for me, and continues to be as we move into a brand new year. I can echo everyone’s thoughts in saying I’m hoping for much better things for us all in 2021.