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How Public Relations Differs from Social Media Marketing

In a world of fluid and constant information sharing, the line between what constitutes public relations (PR) marketing versus social media marketing is often blurred. These two types of consumer engagement are undoubtedly linked, but there is also a fine line between an engaging social media marketing campaign and a successful PR campaign. In short, the two activities complement each other in a collaborative way, but cannot be considered the same thing.

A dynamic marketing plan will incorporate many different objectives that small-to-large companies must implement in order to achieve their business goals. As part of this overall plan, social media marketing and PR campaigns will overlap messaging to ensure they work simultaneously towards a defined business goal. The differences lie in the vehicle for delivery, activities involved, and frequency. Let’s dive in further.

Not Your Parent’s PR Plan

PR can be defined as shaping an audience’s view of a brand by boosting awareness and interest. Gone are the days where you would wholly focus your PR efforts on just picking up the phone and trying to persuade a reporter to write about your topic. Instead, PR professionals now pull an array of tactics out of their toolbox to garner attention. Some examples of effective activities in today’s cluttered media landscape are:

  • an invitation to cover an exclusive brand launch event
  • a planned brand influencer appearance at a charitable event where you know leading bloggers will be in attendance
  • an email with an intriguing headline about a big company announcement
  • a gift to a reporter that positions a product and innately encourages further investigation and a story

No matter what tactic is put in place to drive interest, it’s clear that what works on social media won’t necessarily work for media engagement. Instead, work to develop a PR campaign that focuses on standing out among many while concurrently fostering social media content development.

The Differences Between Social Media Marketing and Public Relations

The primary difference between social media marketing and PR marketing is that one is about maintaining a reliable voice, while the other is about working an angle. It’s no secret that we live in a social-media dominant world – brands capitalize on the fact that the average American spends nearly two and a half hours of their day on social media. They work hard to deliver a finely curated voice to consumers across platforms and, in turn, loyal followers develop a reliance on brands to share content consistently. This back and forth of content sharing creates an “intimate” relationship between a business and a person where the customer can act as a brand ambassador of sorts.

Conversely, PR campaigns work a specific angle and aim to generate buzz with activities occurring irregularly. The power of PR is the ability to capture an audience’s (the media) attention via focused messaging around a hook that draws them in and encourages them to want to learn more. For example, if a new Italian restaurant is opening in a market where there are multiple other Italian restaurants already open locally, a PR person will work to find the hook that makes that news special and noteworthy. Perhaps that hook is that the restaurant hired an award-winning chef moving from New York City. Whatever it may be, it’s essential that it be strong enough to stick out to that reporter and encourage them to share the information they’ve learned.

Overall, social media and PR tactics take a great deal of strategic planning. The company must work diligently to effectually market their brand online, while also recognizing if something they’re doing is worth the additional PR push.

Where There’s Overlap between Social Media and PR Marketing

Where these two marketing tactics meet is at the heart of any business’ goal: elevation of the brand to drive customer interest and engagement. No matter how successful a brand is, at the end of the day, the company is at the whim of the consumer and their perceptions; collaboration of PR and social media activities helps achieve company goals by 1) driving awareness, 2) motivating consumers to engage with the company, and 3) maintaining the connection. Whether a company plans to announce a grand opening or is conducting their regular customer experience monitoring protocol, nurturing the rapport a company has with media, bloggers, influencers, and mostly, customers, puts the building blocks in place for long-standing brand awareness, loyalty, and relationship maintenance. Flawless integration of PR and social media marketing activities helps to do just that.

In the end, the traditional uses for PR and social media have adapted over time and continue to expand in response to our fast-paced business landscape. Recognizing that marketing plans must be unique, collaborative, and flexible is the smartest way you can move your business forward and expand your PR and social media strategies to meet your goals.


About Ethos

Ethos is a multiplatform branding agency that develops and executes integrated marketing campaigns across multiple channels for companies inside and outside of Maine.
At Ethos, we believe that the most effective way to set a company’s marketing course is by finding its core truth – its ethos. We know that once we discover and communicate that core truth, we can truly make a difference for each client’s unique marketing and business objectives.

With Ethos, you get more than a marketing agency. You get a long-term partner whose goals are your goals.

Learn more about the Ethos approach and the work we’ve done for our clients. Want to have a conversation about your public relations strategy? Contact us!