Choosing a Public Relations vs. Marketing Career

Male marketing professional drawing advertisement at desk

Do you enjoy writing and other forms of communication? Are you thinking of working toward a career in the corporate world, but you’re not quite sure which role would be the right fit? You may want to consider a career in either marketing or public relations.

What’s the difference between public relations vs. marketing? These subfields are often confused as being the same thing, but in fact they are very different specializations. This career guide explores the main difference between public relations and marketing and familiarizes you with the various job responsibilities of each so you can make an informed decision for your future.

What’s the Difference Between Public Relations vs. Marketing?

The main difference between public relations vs. marketing is in the objective. A public relations (PR) professional is responsible for cultivating the public image of an organization. In contrast, a marketing professional is responsible for encouraging consumers to purchase a company’s products or services.

It’s important to note that these professionals often have similar responsibilities and even engage in the same types of tasks. Marketing and PR go hand-in-hand; companies are dependent on both of them. At small companies, one person may be in charge of both marketing and PR, whereas large companies may have entire departments dedicated to each domain.

PR Professionals vs. Marketing Professionals

PR specialists and marketers can both work in any industry, and both careers have similar academic requirements. If you’re having trouble choosing between a career in PR and one in marketing, it can be helpful to consider the typical job responsibilities of these professionals to determine which appeals to you more. As you’re reading through the following job responsibilities, remember that PR specialists are tasked with curating an organization’s public image, whereas marketers strive to sell products and services.

Public Relations Specialists

PR specialists may represent organizations or individuals. They may work for one particular company within the PR department, or they may work for a PR agency. Agency PR specialists represent a roster of various clients and brands.

A PR specialist may do any of the following tasks:

  • Write press releases, distribute them to media outlets and provide any requested follow-up information to members of the media
  • Draft speeches, arrange for interviews between media members and clients, prepare clients for interviews and conduct press conferences
  • Evaluate the public image of a client on various media outlets, including social media platforms
  • Assess a company’s marketing campaigns to ensure they are aligned with PR strategies

PR professionals may specialize in a particular subfield. For instance, some PR agencies may work exclusively with high-profile individuals, such as professional athletes and high-net-worth entrepreneurs.

Marketing Specialists

It’s also not unusual for marketers to specialize in a subfield, such as social media marketing or email marketing. Many, however, work on a range of marketing campaigns. Like PR specialists, marketers may work within the marketing department of a large corporation or for a marketing firm that represents many different clients.

A marketing specialist may perform any of the following tasks:

  • Meet with clients to assess an organization’s needs and preferences
  • Liaise with other professionals such as graphic designers and PR specialists
  • Develop and review style guidelines (a handbook to a client’s writing style preferences)
  • Perform search engine optimization (SEO) research, such as identifying effective keywords to use in marketing content
  • Conduct a website audit to assess the strengths and areas for improvement of an organization’s website
  • Write copy, which refers to the content for any type of marketing material, including brochures, blogs, static website pages, landing pages, emails, video scripts and promotional eBooks

Many marketers are generalists who can write copy for a range of industries and companies. Others may choose to specialize in a particular area, such as law, higher education or healthcare marketing.

Earning Your Communications Degree

Both PR specialists and marketers come to their roles from a variety of backgrounds. As such, there is no universal bachelor’s degree requirement for either career. However, a degree in the humanities is ideal, and it’s best to choose one that is focused on written and spoken communication. If you’re positive that you would like to dedicate your career to marketing, then you would be best served by earning a degree in marketing and advertising.

Aspiring PR specialists would be best served by earning a more versatile communications degree. In addition, if you aren’t quite sure yet whether you would like to specialize in PR or marketing, or if you think you might like to transition to a different career at some point, then a communications degree is a safe bet.

The exact curriculum for a communications degree will vary from one school to the next. In general, however, you can expect to study topics such as the following:

  • Theories and practices in small-group, interpersonal, mass, public and intercultural communication
  • Principles and skills in argumentation and advocacy, including the careful construction of effective written and spoken arguments
  • The fundamentals of public relations in nonprofit and for-profit organizations
  • Corporate communication, with a look at organizational theory and leadership
  • Persuasive strategies and their strategic application in marketing and other communications campaigns

If you’re thinking of declaring a minor, two smart choices include psychology and foreign languages. PR specialists and marketers alike can benefit from a basic understanding of human psychology and the factors that influence behavioral patterns, as this knowledge can help them craft more effective communications campaigns. Proficiency in a foreign language can also be an asset for an employee of any marketing or PR firm.

As you approach your junior year, consider exploring internship opportunities at marketing or PR agencies; some of these can be completed remotely, which may provide greater flexibility to accommodate your schedule. It’s also helpful to participate in any extracurricular activities that can help you improve your writing and speaking skills, such as writing for the school newspaper or joining a public speaking club.

Is There a Demand for Marketers?

Businesses and other types of organizations depend on the work of marketers to attract customers, increase sales and raise brand awareness. There is a robust demand for marketers for the foreseeable future, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1

Is There a Demand for PR Experts?

All types of organizations, as well as high-profile individuals, depend on the work of PR experts to shape their public image. The BLS also expects a robust job growth rate of for this profession.2

Does the idea of a career in public relations or marketing appeal to you? If so, you can begin working toward your future at Grand Canyon University. Our College of Humanities and Social Sciences is pleased to offer the Bachelor of Arts in Communications degree program, which explores the fundamentals of advocacy, communication campaigns (including marketing campaigns) and best practices in public relations management.

Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to take your first step toward earning your communications degree.

Retrieved from:

1U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers in March 2022

2U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Public Relations Specialists in March 2022

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.


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