Exploring Marketing vs. Public Relations Careers

marketing team meeting brainstorming ideas

If you enjoy writing and other forms of communications, why not capitalize on your interests by pursuing a relevant career in the corporate world? A career in either marketing or public relations (PR) just might be the right fit for you. This career guide explores the differences and similarities between marketing vs. public relations and briefly considers your potential career pathways and how to achieve your career goals.

In This Article:

What Is Marketing?

Imagine you are an entrepreneur who has just launched your own pet care business. You’ve developed service packages, figured out what you’ll charge for them and stocked up on supplies. Several days after your business has launched, you’re still sitting by the phone waiting for your first client to contact you.

What went wrong? Your pet care business won’t get any clients unless pet owners and potential customers are aware of the following:

  1. Know that your business exists
  2. Understand the value your brand offers
  3. Know how to get in touch with you to request your services.

In other words, it’s not enough to simply launch a business; you need to market your services, as well.

Marketing refers to any activities conducted by a company or on the company’s behalf that are intended to accomplish the following:

  • Raise brand awareness
  • Demonstrate the value of products or services
  • Encourage customers to purchase those products or services

It’s the job of a marketing specialist to plan, launch and evaluate marketing and advertising campaigns. The end goal of those campaigns is to drive sales. Marketing specialists may work for an in-house marketing department at one particular company, or they may work for a marketing firm where they develop campaigns for multiple organizations.

What Is Public Relations?

Companies, organizations and high-profile individuals often find it advantageous to generate positive press and create positive buzz among members of the public. This is particularly true when a company or an individual finds themselves mired in a scandal or other type of controversy. It’s the job of public relations specialists to create that positive buzz and press.

PR specialists are responsible for curating their clients’ public images. They work to downplay controversies while promoting their clients’ positive aspects. To accomplish this, PR specialists cultivate strong working relationships with members of the press, write press releases, draft speeches for their clients and continuously monitor their clients’ public image.

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.

What’s the Difference Between Marketing and Public Relations?

Although marketing and PR are subfields that are quite similar and sometimes overlap, it's important to understand the difference between marketing and public relations professions.

Here’s a look at some of the differences between marketing vs. public relations:

  • Objective – PR specialists cultivate a positive public image for their clients, whereas marketing specialists strive to generate more sales for the company.
  • Formats – Marketing specialists may use a variety of marketing campaign platforms and formats to achieve their goals, such as social media posts, blog posts, website copy, sales emails and paid ads. In contrast, PR experts have a somewhat limited arsenal, primarily relying on media interviews, press releases and speeches.
  • Results – Marketing specialists primarily measure their results in terms of sales generated for the company. PR specialists evaluate the amount of positive press generated, awards won and the general public opinion of the client.

What Are the Similarities Between Marketing vs. Public Relations?

Marketing and PR specialists often have similar responsibilities and sometimes engage in the same types of tasks. Furthermore, marketing and PR work go hand-in-hand and companies are dependent on both of them. In fact, at some smaller companies, one person might be in charge of both the marketing campaigns and the PR initiatives.

Here’s a look at some of the major similarities between public relations vs. marketing:

  • Spin – Both PR and marketing professionals try to put a positive spin on their messaging. PR specialists might point to their clients’ philanthropic work to create a positive public opinion, for example, and marketing specialists will emphasize a product’s positive attributes while downplaying its negative ones.
  • Characteristics – Certain characteristics can define both PR and marketing specialists. For example, for both professions, it’s helpful to have very strong communication skills, as well as attention to detail and a creative mindset.
  • Brand Alignment – Another similarity is that the work that PR and marketing specialists do must always be in alignment with their clients’ brand voice. For example, a PR specialist who is ghostwriting a thought leadership article on behalf of their client must ensure that it mimics that client’s voice. Similarly, a company’s marketing campaigns must encapsulate that company’s brand voice, regardless of which marketing specialists worked on any given campaign.

Enrolling in a Marketing and Advertising Degree Program

The career pathways of marketing and PR specialists are similar, but not entirely alike. For example, if you already know that a career in marketing is the right choice for you, then it’s a good idea to enroll in a marketing and advertising degree program. Although the curriculum will vary from one school to the next, you can generally expect to study topics such as:

  • Buyer and consumer behaviors
  • Ethical marketing and advertising campaign strategies
  • Cross-channel digital marketing campaigns
  • Marketing research processes and techniques

Enrolling in a Communications Program

If you're interested in a career in public relations and marketing, enroll in a communications program. In fact, professionals in either subfield could come from a variety of academic backgrounds, provided their degrees are in reading -and writing-intensive fields. However, if you’re already convinced that PR is the right career path for you, then it makes sense to enroll in a communications program.

During the course of your communications studies, you can expect to study topics such as:

  • Argumentation and advocacy
  • Persuasive and strategic communications campaigns
  • Principles and theories of PR
  • Organizational communication theories and applications

Whatever your future plans are, there is a degree program at Grand Canyon University (GCU) that can help you pursue your dreams in public relations and marketing. In addition to our communications programs, GCU is pleased to offer the Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Advertising degree for aspiring marketing specialists. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about joining our supportive learning community.


Approved by full-time faculty for the Colangelo College of Business on Feb. 21, 2023.

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.