<%@ Language=VBScript %> <% CheckState() CheckSub() %> Marketing and Public Relations: An Exploratory Study

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Marketing and Public Relations: An Exploratory Study

Philip J Kitchen
Keele University, United Kingdom
Danny Moss
Manchester Metropolitan University United Kingdom


Both public relations and marketing are well-known areas in many organisation. Both in this context necessarily relate to a view of communication with publics, audiences, or markets internal or external to organisations. Public relations in itself has many different definitions as lamented by Heilbroner (1985) who said that 'public relations is a brotherhood of some 100,000, whose common bond is its profession and whose common woe is that no two of them can ever quite agree on what that profession is'. A more useful definition was put forward by Cutlip et al (1985) that 'public relations is the management function that identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organisation and the various publics on whom its success or its failure depends'. This would imply a) the selection of target publics, b) the design of appropriate messages or communications, c) The choice of appropriate media vehicles to deliver the messages. The word 'management' necessitates the usual skills: analysis, planning, implementation, and control over time. Marketing constitutes another management function whose definition, according to the American Marketing Association, is 'the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services, to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organisational objectives'(Marketing News, 1985). Under this definition marketing is charged with creating exchanges and satisfying needs (whether individual or organisational). Such exchanges are invariably founded on communicating with target audiences. A function which again is managerially oriented and requires analysis, planning, implementation, and control. So far, so good. Both functions are needful, both need to communicate effectively and efficiently with public or audiences, and both require key resources from an organisation.

However, over the past ten to fifteen years a significant debate has developed concerning the respective boundaries of both public relations and marketing - a debate summarised by Philip Kotler (1989) in a position paper prepared for the Public Relations Colloquium in San Diego. The Colloquium was titled 'Public Relations and Marketing: Dividing the Conceptual Domain and Operational Turf'. In his paper Kotler drew attention to perhaps a mistaken premise namely - that the two disciplines are adversarial. The word 'dividing' suggests once-and-for-all decisions as to which tools, techniques, principles, and procedures belong to public relations and which belong to marketing. Kotler suggests that public relations and marketing are better viewed as corporate allies rather than adversaries, a view supported by Kitchen (1993) who sought to illustrate areas of commonality between the two communication areas, and focused on the ambiguity and confusion characterising their role in business organisations. Despite these papers and ideas, admittedly from what may be perceived as a biased marketing perspective, there is strong resistance by public relations academics as to marketing playing a significant role in public relations, and especially the recent move toward the latest conflation of terms, if not techniques, known as 'marketing public relations'. Such resistance has been potentially inflamed and fanned by the 'traditional marketing view' of what public relations is or should be (For a more substantive review of the marketing and PR perspectives see Kitchen and Moss, 1995).

The traditional marketing view of public relations recurs throughout the marketing literature. For example Shimp and Delozier (1986) saw public relations and publicity as activities that serve 'to supplement media advertising, sales, and sales promotion'. Schwartz (1982) maintained that public relations is little more than another form of 'consumer oriented sales promotion'; and Kotler (1978, 1982, 1986, 1991), a prolific and influential author, while acknowledging that public relations and marketing are two separate disciplines, has continued to subsume public relations under the control of marketing throughout most of his writings. For example, Kotler (1986) in the Harvard Business Review article Megamarketing reiterated his view that public relations was simply an additional element of the marketing mix. For Kotler, public relations serves primarily as a communications function and, as such, plays a far narrower role than marketing in defining and achieving business goals.

This predominately reductionist view of public relations can be found either explicitly or implicitly in the marketing literature (Bernstein, 1988; Gage, 1981; Kreitzman, 1986). There is increasing evidence of a blurring in the distinction between public relations and marketing in the professional public relations literature where a number of articles posit the viewpoint that public relations and public relations practices are recognised as 'integrated and converging concepts' (Goldman, 1988; Novelli, 1988). While the focus of these articles has been on the role of public relations in marketing support they reflect a growing tendency for convergence (Kitchen, 1993) between the two disciplines. The most striking evidence of this trend has been the emergence in both the marketing and public relations vocabularies of the term 'marketing public relations'.

Harris (1991) in a text which examines this development, argues that the 1980's saw the emergence of marketing public relations (MPR) as a distinct new promotional discipline comprising specialist application public relations techniques that support marketing activities. Harris argues that this specialised form of public relations should be differentiated from 'general public relations' and from 'corporate-PR' in particular. Taking Harris's comments to a logical conclusion MPR would be treated as part of the marketing communications mix which can be perceived by PR purists as belonging again to the 'reductionist school'.

In a series of articles considering the development of public relations Kitchen (1991, 1993, 1995) stipulates that considerable development has taken place in relation to public relations development in UK FMCG firms, both in a marketing and corporate communications sense. This development can be traced to several underpinning factors in the 1980's specifically. From a marketing perspective changes in the promotional environment have led to changes in the promotional mix with budgets and programmes literally being driven 'down the line'. As stated by a public relations director (quoted in Kitchen, 1993):

'The television media has become very cluttered; over the past three decades the net supply has hardly changed; this creates significant pressure on prices. If you cannot spend marketing money via classic advertising it has to go down the line; and one way to do this effectively is via product PR, but the reasons for utilising this tool are based on physical economics'

Quite literally marketeers are being forced to consider PR's applicability to marketing products, brands, and services. Why? Advertising costs are burgeoning, sales promotional activities are questioned, and sales forces are being slimmed down. Clearly marketeers must seek for new opportunities to promote products in a cost effective way. At the corporate level the number of public relations tools have diversified and expanded as indicated by a PR manager (quoted in Kitchen, 1993):

'In today's highly competitive and geographically expanding marketplace, a company's image and corporate identity are vital elements in the communication process. How a company is perceived and how it presents itself can have a marked effect on business success'.

However, despite public relations growth in either a marketing or corporate sense, debate concerning boundaries still continues. Several important issues remained unexplored or unresolved. The following questions seem crucial:

This paper seeks to explore these issues.


Research Method

The objective of this paper is to explore the four questions noted. Firms manufacturing FMCG's (fast moving consumer goods) were contacted to provide a sample for an exploratory study. Choices of firms for inclusion in the study were based on the Top 100 Advertisers 1993 (Marketing Pocketbook 1994). Why this choice of companies? Of the top 20 UK advertisers, 10 are FMCG firms with an average advertising expenditure of 45m. The top three advertisers in the League Table are all FMCG firms with an average expenditure of 74m. If public relations is making inroads into these companies at both marketing and corporate levels, then this would (at very least) suggest a basis for the real growth that is taking place in public relations in the United Kingdom. A questionnaire was developed, pre-tested, and mailed to named executives from both public relations and marketing in 10 firms in late 1994. Of these ten firms, seven sets of comparative data were obtained. Thus while the sample was small, the findings not representative of all such companies, and statistical tests inapplicable, the research method is useful for this exploratory work. However such a method cannot guarantee clear and unambiguous interpretation of the findings. The exploratory research therefore rests on a judgement sample, which while not representative, does serve to generate ideas and insights, one of the primary purposes of such research (Churchill, 1991). While anonymity was guaranteed for the seven firms who participated in the survey, it is worth pointing out that they are all ranked in the top 30 firms in the United Kingdom. The method is of value in the context of exploring the issues involved: i.e. the relationship between marketing and PR; the emergence of marketing PR; and the emergence of integrated marketing communications - within the context of seasoned executives in major UK FMCG firms. The findings describe general perceptions among sample firms respondents and are potentially indicative of trends in the FMCG sector.

Research Findings

The seven firms operated in the following areas of business: Food (2), Spirits and Beer, OTC (over the counter) pharmaceuticals, Confectionary, Food/Soft Drinks, and Pet Food/Supplies. Average turnover was in excess of 3billion, average number employed was in the order of 17,000; with geographic coverage extending from national to Pan-European, and/or global.

Six of the seven firms had a separate public relations/public affairs department. The one firm which did not had a hybrid arrangement for national PR which involved a Director of Planning or the Marketing Team with the planning director and/or external PR Agencies as needed. The average number of employees within internal PR departments was nineteen. A wide divergence of titles was given to senior public relations executives which included: public relations director, public affairs director, head of PR, head of corporate relations, director and senior vice president of corporate affairs, head of external relations, and public affairs manager. Of these it was stated by PR executives that two reported to a marketing director, one to a deputy chairman, and two to a group CEO. According to marketing four senior public relations executives reported to a marketing director, and only one to a corporate affairs director. Thus there is a mismatch as perceived by senior executives within these firms but early evidence supports the view of an interrelationship between PR and Marketing. All firms employed PR agencies to assist with PR activities. For these firms usage of PR Agencies was seen as necessary whether to carry out communications at brand/product or corporate level.

For PR functions such as media relations, product publicity, employee communications, corporate advertising, public affairs, government relations, community relations, sponsorship, event management, issues management, and dealer relations firms use either their own PR staff, and/or the services of a PR Consultancy or Agency. Community, government, and trade relations, and employee communications were performed by PR staff. The remaining activities were either carried by PR Consultancies or shared between staff and consultancies. Issues management, followed by internal employee communications, formed crucial areas of importance within these companies. Firms also indicated other areas of activity such as: presence marketing, charitable activities/donations, direct marketing, heritage marketing, investor relations, and branded events though it is emphasised that each of these activities were specific to individual firms. With the exception of direct marketing - all were carried out by internal PR staff and did not rely heavily on PR consultancies.

Several areas of public relations practice, as perceived by PR and Marketing executives have become more important over the past three years. PR Executives indicated that three areas are more important now; these include employee communications, government relations, and issues management. Only one of these, the first, was rated in the same way by marketing. Media relations has become much more important to marketeers over the past three years. Product/service publicity became less important for one firm. The findings suggest a wide degree of interaction and cross-fertilization of PR activities, with some activities staying unchanged such as media relations, product/service publicity, and community and dealer relations. Other areas such as sponsorship and event management, had become less important.

The most important audiences for marketing were regarded as customers/consumers, employees, trade unions, and dealer/trade relations. For PR the areas are employees, media, customers/consumers, government, and trade unions. However, while there are differences between the two groups of responses, it was recognised by both groups that PR is focused on a wider range of target audiences or publics than marketing. Executives were asked a series of open questions concerning perceived responsibility for promotional activities. the primary responsibility for the main promotional activities (i.e. the promotional mix of advertising, sales promotion, personal selling) are under the domain of marketing. Alternatively publicity (in general) and events/exhibitions and potentially sponsorship are under the domain of PR. But in a number of areas the primary responsibility appears to be shared i.e. sponsorship, publicity, trade dealer promotions, and customer relations. Thus there is interaction taking place between public relations and marketing at the promotional level. Neither PR nor Marketing, as yet, appear to be in a superior or subordinate role.

The idea of marketing or PR in a subordinate or superior organisational position is not new. The initial rational for the proposed interrelationship was put forward by Kotler and Mindak (1978) and revisited by Kotler (1989). As perceived by PR and marketing executives in this research two statements found a degree of correspondence: The first was that PR and marketing enjoy separate but overlapping functions. This suggests that marketing and PR practitioners each manage a distinct set of activities which they can carry out in relative independence, though not complete independence of each other. However, a further statement also found five executives agreeing - this was 'public relations can be seen as part of the marketing function'. Given the earlier comments concerning hierarchical accountability it seems that in some companies PR is part of a wider and dominant marketing function. It would seem at this time, therefore, that the two functions are not integrated; they have separate and overlapping functions; and, marketing has more importance than PR in most, if not all, respondent companies. This was born out by the ratio of Marketing to PR budgets in these firms. The seven PR respondents rated this at 65 to 1 in favour of marketing, while the marketing estimate was more conservative at 20 to 1 on average. Thus, from a financial perspective, marketing carries a far greater importance than PR in these organisations. This, it could be argued, is legitimate given that is marketing's responsibility to create profitable exchanges that satisfy individual needs and organisational objectives. Without such exchanges the public relations function would be redundant. Supporting this, executives were asked for their opinions concerning statements about the relationship between PR and Marketing. Broad agreement was expressed with the view that marketing has greater status and importance than PR in these organisations. However, broad disagreement was expressed from both PR and marketing over views that would marginalise and peripheralise PR as an adjunct to marketing. These findings would indicate that PR and marketing are not normally rivals for company resources (i.e. they are separate but overlapping functions), PR extends beyond the simple generation of media coverage, and PR can be utilised by marketing as well as being utilised as a corporate communications function.

Public relations has increased rapidly in importance over the past three years according to eleven of the fourteen respondents. For the other three respondents PR is about the same in importance as it was three years ago. The reasons for the increased importance of PR are shown in Table 1.


As perceived by PR executives:

* Focus on targeting
* Greater emphasis on corporate branding
* Animosity toward....industry, plus probity, and cost containment in time of recession
* Growing need for corporate positioning and managing change
* The establishing corporate profile

As perceived by Marketing Executives

* More educated marketeers, successful PR campaigns/opportunities for marketeers to participate in PR planning activity and can see results.
* Building greater accountability; strategic focus measures; growing consumer sophistication; media fragmentation; development of brand marketing.
* It can provide a very cost effective means of challenging managers while being a visible manifestation of a companies culture/mission statement.
* Growing recognition of the importance of consumer attitudes to the company and their perceptions of the value added by company activities

Virtually all the PR executive perceptions are related to corporate issues, particularly related to corporate imagery - or the raising of a corporate profile. Very plainly, from the marketing perspective public relations is seen as an additional integrative tool to be utilised for marketing purposes. At the same time marketing does not deny the validity of PR as a corporate communications tool. No respondents anticipated any decline in PR spend over the next two years, 5 anticipated the same budgetary spend, while 9 anticipated increased expenditure (PR +20%; Marketing + 12%).

Questions were asked pertaining to which areas of PR are likely to become more important over the next two years. From PR, these included in rank order: issues management, employee communications, corporate communications/advertising, international communications, public affairs, government relations/lobbying, financial PR, and finally marketing support activities. Thus, marketing support, as seen by PR executives, was not expected to increase in importance. This point, however, was negated by marketing executives where five of the seven executives indicated that marketing support activities, as an area of PR, was expected to increase in importance over the next two years. No other area was as heavily weighted as this. So, again, there appears to be mismatch of opinion. Marketers are clearly indicating PR has to assist marketing in achieving promotional and relational objectives. For PR executives the need for marketing support services was not considered an area of increased importance. Rather issues management, employee communications, international communications, and corporate communications/advertising were perceived pertinent in this context. Again, this would underline the view that marketing and PR have separate but overlapping functions, with PR's brief to create and sustain mutually beneficial relations with publics beyond the domain of marketing.

Executives perceptions of statements concerning interaction between Corporate PR and Marketing Support PR (MPR) were considered. Corporate PR and Marketing PR enjoy some degree of interaction and synergy. They are not separate and distinct, as could for example be perceived by 'purist' PR theorists. Nonetheless, much of the impetus for the use of PR for marketing purposes is derived from marketing, not necessarily PR. Corporate and brand images interact to enhance overall ambience and both forms of PR influence the bottom line. There is evidence that both MPR and CPR must work together in an overall communications programme, and while this may be a desirable objective it is difficult to achieve in practice. PR executives indicated that corporate PR affects propensity to purchase, a view not wholeheartedly shared by marketeers. Executives from both areas agreed that the gap between what is perceived to be corporate and marketing PR is closing as companies perceive the need to unite core product and company values through both types of communication. However, what is 'marketing PR?' Both types of executives adopted a differential perspective and these perspectives are illustrated in Table 2.


Public Relations Perspective

* Not seen the term used.
* Brand related PR
* Product support.
* Generalised promotion beyond USP for products.
* Support for brands or products through publicity programmes mainly but not exclusively editorial
* PR connected with commercial activities such as trade communications etc.

Marketing Perspective

* The development of core themes by marketing that are exploited through all mediums to achieve brand communication objectives – from advertising, brands publicity, – promotion is a chain reaction!
* Apart from the latest 'Buzz Word' it is concerned with a greater understanding of the marketing function – PR's usual support role has to include more elements of the mix and greater involvement in the process of marketing
* I understand marketing to be the whole process of determining and satisfying customer demand. I would take marketing PR to be a corporate contribution to this – using the company's image/values etc to influence customer choice.

While the term 'marketing PR' is not part of the current language, virtually all respondents suggest that PR can be related to marketing in terms of brand or product support which is extending the more usual support role of PR in marketing. However many firms have been using the term 'integrated marketing communications' as defined by Schultz et al (1992) - the ideal of 'building a synchronised multi-channel communications strategy that reaches every market segment with a single unified message'. Table 3 indicates to what extent executives in UK FMCG firms agree with this: Words such as 'message coherency', and 'optimisation of mix elements' bear correspondence to the definition given by Schultz et al. The aim of IMC is to try and ensure that each message delivered through a variety of media impacts on the audience in the same way and 'speaks with one voice'. Thus while marketing PR may not be clearly delineated at this time by this particular group of respondents, IMC is readily recognisable; moreover PR executives recognise that public relations is recognised as a coherent part of IMC. However, the question as to whether PR is part of IMC can be viewed through the lens of executive perceptions (see Table 4).



1. IMC is simply a means of improving the co-ordination between the different elements of the marketing communications mix
2. IMC involves a totally new philosophy of marketing communications
3. IMC is an attempt to carry out marketing communications in a way which will ensure a more coherent message is delivered to the target audience
4. IMC is concerned with optimising use of the different elements of the marketing communications mix.
5. Public Relations is part of IMC

Executives from PR and marketing agreed to more than one the five statements in the Table 3. The majority of respondents (13) agreed with statement 5, a further 8 agreed with statement three, and six with statement four. Statement 2 received two agreements, and statement 1, one. Thus, integrated marketing communications (IMC) is perceived as containing within its remit - public relations. And this, in order to ensure that a more message is delivered to the target audience. Table 4 explores the issue as to why PR is part of IMC.


Public Relations

* Because it is necessary to market our corporate brand.
* PR can support other disciplines, giving it independent endorsement.
* PR is better at dealing with complex messages.
* PR is not restricted to marketing, it has other strategic roles
* It is about communicating values.
* Brand PR is an important part of the marketing mix.
* It is not needful to have two separate messages when communicating a marketing strategy.


* Marketing has to become aware of the inter-relatedness of the marketing mix in achieving brand communication objectives; in turn brands publicity has changed to respond to marketing needs by catalysing integrated solutions.
* Marketing set the objectives. PR is merely one of several variable i.e. advertising that is undertaken to achieve these objectives.
* Pr can add value to any marketing investment/activity/event. Budgets are always under threat – you have to maximise any marketing involvement by concentrating on core objectives/strategies/activities etc
* There is still confusion about the role of PR and what it can achieve for a brand/product etc. The media diversity, direct mail marketing etc, and proliferation of media opportunities are more suited to targeted PR

For the majority of respondents public relations is seen as part of the new trend toward integrated marketing communications. Such communications must as it were 'speak with one voice' and draw upon a variety of communication tools (including PR) to deliver appropriate 'one voice' messages to diverse target audiences or publics. In other words, for these organisations communication, not necessarily a focus on where such communications should be derived is the major issue. Thus is the debate purely 'academic'? The following section discusses the findings in the context of the original four questions, and attempts to arrive at a coherent conclusion to this paper.


The relationship between public relations and marketing, as perceived by PR and Marketing executives in this small exploratory work with FMCG firms, is not a derivation of the academic literature. For this sample, firms public relations and marketing work hand-in-hand to communicate effectively with audiences or publics perceived as important in their competitive domain. Considerable agreement was expressed with the view that marketing and PR have separate but overlapping functions AND the viewpoint that public relations could be seen as part of the marketing function. However this relationship appears to be changing as the concept of integrated marketing communications takes hold. Admittedly PR would appear to be in a subordinate function because of the necessity for quid pro quo exchanges. However it seems that PR tools, techniques, principles, and and tactics can be adapted and used quite readily by marketeers who are accessing this tool for product/brand promotion. Thus from a corporate perspective the image of an organisation impacts on its marketing (Friend, 1993). This image - developed, sustained, and communicated by varied corporate PR tools, impacts necessarily on marketing. But equally, the firms brands, products, services, pricing, distribution, and promotional techniques deployed impact on corporate image. Thus PR and Marketing are not adversaries within these organisations, but corporate allies - a view supported earlier by Kotler (1989).

There is a significant relationship between corporate public relations and marketing public relations. Leaving aside the latter terminology for now, it is evident from this research that both types of communication contribute to organisational success. Both areas of communications access a number of differentiated communication tools. However the focus of such communication is different. Marketing focuses on the need to create exchanges with customers and consumers and, according this research, borrows or uses PR tools for usage at the marketing level. Public relations has a wider brief to create and maintain mutually beneficial relations with publics who could impact on business success. To do this PR adopts and uses a number of diverse tools. Few would argue with the view that PR is growing in importance in large organisations - but it is growing in two related, interactive, and synergistic dimensions for both publics AND audiences. Thus public relations would appear to contribute directly to business performance. In a recent report supporting this view, UK companies in general saw PR as a vital component of marketing and internal/external communication strategies, and is thus contribute directly to bottom-line performance (Farish, 1994).

Marketing PR does not mean a great deal as yet to executives in UK FMCG firms. While the term may not be readily recognisable, its usage is marked. Despite some resistance to PR being used in a marketing support role, its use is well entrenched at the marketing level, though not in the mainstream areas of advertising, sales promotion, or selling. In many other related areas PR is recognisable and needed given a scenario of declining promotional budgets, media fragmentation, the need for cost effectiveness, the growing need for integrated marketing communications, and the numbers of criticisms raised concerning promotional effectiveness. Marketing executives expect the PR support role to increase in importance. However, the real need is for all promotional activities to be interactive and synergistic, thus PR can be expected play a greater role in marketing in the future.

Integrated marketing communications offers, as its terminology suggests, potential for integrating promotional elements of the marketing mix, and strives to ensure that coherent messages are delivered to target audiences. However the term 'integrated marketing communications' extends beyond marketing to corporate activities also. For many FMCG firms, there is a significant need to market the corporate brand. Thus while PR can utilised by marketing, marketing can also be utilised by PR.


Public relations and Marketing together form the avenues for Communication within organisations. The two form not a competitive disequilibrium but a corporate and marketing equilibrium. The placing of PR or Marketing in separate or discrete boxes or compartments adds little or nothing to understanding the complex organisational interactions involved. Public relations is of significant value in the marketing domain. But its role extends beyond marketing. Likewise however Marketing extends beyond creating quid pro quo exchanges and is of value and relevance to corporate communications activities. There does appear to be some evidence of a moving together of techniques, tools, and organisational coupling - ie the movement toward integration. It is too soon in this research process to tell whether marketing PR is the 'new discipline' as proclaimed by its adherents. On the other hand the emergence of integrated marketing communications seems to herald the juxtaposition of marketing and PR skills. At the risk of criticism it may be worth concluding in the words one erstwhile marketing executive:

'If one accepts marketing as the whole process of determining and satisfying customer need, the contribution of many different functions in the corporation can be aligned. Any function not focused on [this definition of] marketing needs to have its continuation closely examined'

Thus, while both PR and Marketing are necessary in today's large multi-faceted organisations, Marketing is still charged with the responsibility to create exchanges. This essentially is the driving force underpinning all business progression, development, and growth. The remaining two phases of research involving depth interviews and a larger scale survey will shed further light on this under-researched area.


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