Differences Between a PR Plan and a Marketing/Advertising Plan

Business Writing Public Relations and Branding

The fields of public relations and marketing are closely related to each other. Both aim to build relationships with target audiences and utilize campaigns to achieve their goals. These similarities can often lead inexperienced individuals to perceive the two fields as synonymous. They may develop the idea that planning to achieve PR and marketing objectives is one task and that an organization will only need one department to oversee the process. This misconception can result in an ineffective PR or marketing plan that achieves a general goal but fails to address integral issues regarding an organization’s public relations or marketing. To avoid this, professionals must understand that PR and Marketing plans differ regarding their objectives, target audiences, measures of success, and roles in different types of organizations.

Definition of PR and Marketing

One of the main differences between PR plans and Marketing plans is the definition of their respective fields. For public relations, the field focuses on developing strategic communication processes to build relationships with the public (Learn About Public Relations, n.d.). This definition highlights communication as a key factor in the field. Constant communication with an organization’s target audience can lead to better relationships. This is necessary to achieve positive images and messages which are core concepts in public relations (What’s the Difference, 2021). Furthermore, public relations tend to be a long process that focuses on public relationships instead of profits (Samson, 2021). This leads PR plans to include programs that continue for long durations as the organization slowly builds relationships with the public.

For marketing, the field focuses on sales conversion and earning revenue. The American Marketing Association (n.d.) defined marketing as a process that aims to deliver valuable offerings to customers. These offerings can be products or services that a target audience will likely consume. Similar to public relations, marketing aims to form relationships between its brand and consumers. However, its intention behind building relationships revolves around influencing the behavior of consumers (What’s the Difference, 2021). To achieve its goals, writing a marketing plan involves the usage of business principles like SWOT analysis and Marketing Mix to establish a strong research foundation. Through the marketing plan, an organization can effectively improve brand awareness and persuade consumers to utilize its products or services.

Target Audiences

The different objectives of PR plans and Marketing plans lead to different target audiences. Since the main objective of a PR plan is to establish a positive corporate image, it will target demographics that can influence public perception. A PR plan’s target audience can be investors, media personnel, sponsors, employees, legislators, and the general public. As an organization develops relationships with these audiences, it can better manage and monitor public perception. This can lead to an increase in sales, additional funding, and customer loyalty. For example, a non-profit organization that provides food for stray animals may  write a PR plan to increase its funding. The organization can target media personnel and the general public to effectively share its message through media and word-of-mouth. As their relationship with the target audience strengthens, they can ask for financial support as well as volunteer work.

What is there difference between a PR Plan and a Marketing Plan?

For marketing plans, the target audiences are the potential customers that will likely consume a particular product or service. As mentioned earlier, a marketing plan focuses on producing sales and revenue. For an organization to achieve this goal, it will need to target a specific demographic and establish strategies to persuade potential customers. The plan must indicate its target audiences’ age, gender, occupation, income, interests, location, and other important factors. An effective marketing plan will contain highly specific information about its target audience to better develop strategies that will cater to the requirements of each demographic. For example, a shoe manufacturing company may target working individuals who are living in flood-prone areas as the audience for their new water-proof boots marketing plan. This specific target audience will allow the organization to create advertisements that will cater to their experiences of flooding. Additionally, it is important to note that a PR plan can also contain specific information about its target audience. However, a marketing plan greatly benefits from this process due to the targeted advertising that they need to create.

Measure of Success

Aside from different target audiences, a PR plan and marketing plan’s objectives result in different measures of success. For public relations, positive public opinion and support define a successful PR plan (Turney, 2001). Since a PR plan focuses on building relationships and establishing a positive corporate image to achieve a certain objective, its success will rely on its current relationship with the public. Utilizing the non-profit organization example earlier, the organization’s measure of success will be the successful increase in public awareness regarding the current situation of stray animals through media and word-of-mouth. Receiving funding from sponsors and recruiting volunteer workers can also be indicators of the PR plan’s success. Simply put, a successful PR plan results in a positive corporate image and the accomplishment of its objectives.

Alternatively, a marketing plan’s measure of success is dependent on customer feedback and behavior. A successful marketing plan will increase sales and generate revenue from marketing campaigns (Turney, 2001). The plan achieves this through advertisements, effective public relations, and other aspects of marketing campaigns. Since a marketing plan involves the creation of advertisements, the public’s attitude towards the medium may be a factor in its success. For example, Pepsi created an advertisement in 2016 that portrayed Kendall Jenner in a setting that resembles a protest. The advertisement received a negative response from the viewers due to its trivialization of protest movements . This marketing ad resulted in the company experiencing a drop in its brand value. This showcases that a marketing plan’s success will not only depend on revenue generation but also on public acceptance.

Roles in a Non-Profit Organization

The roles of PR plans and marketing plans can vary depending on the type of organization. In a non-profit organization, a PR plan becomes an important aspect of its operation that can lead to success (Turney, 2001).  Non-profit organizations tend to rely on donors, sponsors, and investors that will provide financial assistance, manpower, and other resources to achieve their objectives. A PR plan becomes integral to the process since non-profit organizations have to develop strong relationships with their target audiences to remain in operation. Developing a negative corporate image can cause a non-profit organization to lose its identity along with the resources that its supporters provide. Creating a strong PR plan is necessary to maintain the organization and avoid defamation.

In contrast, marketing plans tend to be less important in a non-profit organization. As mentioned earlier, marketing plans have the objective of generating profits which is not a goal for any non-profit organization. This can often lead to most non-profit organizations disregarding the creation of a marketing department. However, some non-profit organizations may still have marketing departments to promote the services that they offer to the public (Turney, 2001). A non-profit organization, such as a children’s charity, will be less likely to have a marketing plan and instead, utilize a PR plan. Non-profit organizations, such as a fundraising service for farmers, may develop a marketing plan to increase the public’s use of their fundraising services.

Roles in a For-Profit Organization

For-profit organizations tend to inverse the aforementioned roles of PR plans and marketing plans. In this type of organization, a PR plan becomes a tool to support and enhance a marketing plan (Turney, 2001). The organization can either create a PR plan that is an extension of its marketing plan or a separate document that contains objectives relevant to the marketing goals. For example, a car manufacturing company may have image issues due to its high waste production. The issues can lead to lower sales due to the public’s negative perception and avoidance of the company’s products. A PR plan can, along with an effective marketing plan, can improve public perception which will result in increased sales and revenue.

Since a for-profit organization operates to generate profits, a marketing plan becomes an important tool of operation. As mentioned earlier, a marketing plan has the objective of converting the public into consumers and improving sales. This will involve promotional campaigns, brand awareness advertisements, and effective public relations. A marketing plan contains most of these requirements and can also utilize a PR plan as a tool to achieve its objectives.


Differentiating a PR plan from a marketing plan is necessary to ensure that an organization utilizes the correct tools to achieve its goals. It is integral to understand that they have different approaches regarding objectives, target audiences, measures of success, and roles in different types of organizations. A PR plan is an effective tool in building public relationships to improve corporate image while a marketing plan utilizes the relationships to influence consumer behavior. They measure success on the accomplishment of the initial goal and play alternating roles concerning non-profit and for-profit organizations. Despite the differences between the two, any type of organization can benefit from the creation of effective PR plans and marketing plans.

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