This week I’d like to suggest that public relations is a separate management function than marketing and that it should not be structured as a part of IMC. In order to illustrate this point, I would like to focus on three major ways that public relations serves a different function than marketing. These points are that each has a different audience, that each has different overall goals, and that each creates different types of messages. I will then conclude by analyzing why I think this topic creates so much debate.
First, public relations and marketing should be separate functions because they each communicate with different audiences. For example, “marketing exists to sense, serve, and satisfy customer needs at a profit” (Cornelissen, 2017, p. 19). This occurs as “advertising and marketing concentrate on one product for one customer group” at a time. However, public relations isn’t as worried about targeting a specific group. Instead, it tries to “[build] relationships with many groups to accomplish varied objectives on many levels” (Blakeman, 2015, p. 126). This is because they are more concerned with interacting with public groups (Blakeman, 2015, p. 122).
Second, public relations should remain separated from marketing because they each have different overall goals and “fulfill different purposes” (Miller & Rose, 1994, p. 13). For example, marketing seeks to promote products and services to help the company increase sales and to “encourage name recognition” (Blakeman, 2015, p. 41; Hallahan, 2007, p. 302). However, public relations prefers to spread the word “about what a corporation or organization is doing locally, nationally, or internationally [and] how it affects the organization’s product or service.” This is done to “attract attention” to an organization so they can build and maintain their reputation (Blakeman, 2015, p. 119-123).
Third, public relations should not be integrated with marketing because it requires the creation of different types of messages. For example, marketing and advertising is a form of one-way communication that is created for customers. These messages are designed to “run for years” so the company can drive sales and increase profits (Blakeman, 2015, p. 45, 100, 126). However, public relations is a two-way form of communication that “facilitate[s] a dialogue and the building of relationships” (Blakeman, 2015, p. 118; Moriarty, 1994, p. 40). This form of communication tends to have a shorter shelf life than marketing communication does because it is more reactionary in nature (Blakeman, 2015, p. 122-125).
Finally, I would like to discuss why I think this topic creates so much heated discussion. I think the main reason why so many people disagree on how public relations fits in with IMC is that both public relations and marketing are closely connected to a company’s ability to make a profit. For example, marketing helps a company to increase their profits by creating products and services that meet a customer’s wants and needs. Public relations, on the other hand, helps a company to turn a profit by “[creating] goodwill with the company’s various publics so that these publics [don’t] interfere in the firm’s profit-making ability” (Blakeman, 2015, p. 1-5, 8, 14; Cornelissen, 2017, p. 19).
Because both the marketing and public relations departments share this specific goal, there is a lot of confusion as to who is actually in charge of creating each of the company’s messages. This confusion can create disagreements among people in different departments as to “who should lead and who should follow” when a company plans its goals and objectives (Blakeman, 2015, p. 126; Moriarty, 1994, p. 42). It also creates heated feelings because it can make some communication practitioners worry about the possibility of losing their jobs if IMC and public relations are integrated. In short, I think this discussion creates a lot of negative feelings because it threatens people’s egos and livelihoods (Hallahan, 2007, p. 301-302; Moriarty, 1994, p. 43).
Blakeman, R. (2015). Integrated marketing communication: Creative strategy from idea to implementation(2nd ed.). Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
Cornelissen, J. P. (2017). Corporate Communication: A Guide to Theory and Practice. London, GB: SAGE Publications.
Hallahan, K. (2007). Integrated communication: Implications for public relations beyond excellence. In E. L. Toth (Ed.), The Future of Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management: Challenges for the Next Generation. Mahwah, New Jersey. 299-323.
Miller, D. A., & Rose, P. B. (1994). Integrated communications: A look at reality instead of theory. Public Relations Quarterly, 39(1), 13-16.Moriarty, S. E. (1994). PR and IMC: The benefits of integration. Public Relations Quarterly, 39(3), 38-44.