By Frances Ward, director, Solid Ink Communications

Whether you’re a big company operating 50 branches worldwide or a sole practitioner working from home, you need to make smart choices about how to spend your money on your marketing and public relations activities.

I face this as a business owner myself, and I recently found myself pondering how much of what I invest in promoting what we do, and why it’s valuable, returns an immediate, quantifiable benefit to my bank account? And this has got me thinking about the differences between the disciplines of ‘marketing’ and ‘public relations’, and where they diverge in terms of the impact they have on the bottom line.

We’re operating in a time where customers are interacting more directly with businesses to compare products, submit reviews and talk with each other about their experiences with your business. To put it another way, today’s stakeholders and customers want to feel connected to brands and businesses in ways like never before, and they can basically have access to information about companies and organisations at the drop of a hat.

Within this context, we need to think about what we’re trying to achieve in terms of our marketing and public relations efforts, and decide where to put our dollars accordingly.

So what’s the difference?

Well, marketing teams traditionally think about promoting a service or product through advertising, promotions, direct marketing tactics etc. with the view of driving sales. The PR arm of a business thinks more broadly about building and maintaining relationships with stakeholders who may or may not have a direct impact on the bottom line. These groups might be media stakeholders, councils, lobby groups, community members, distributors or partners—people who can make or break your reputation and therefore have a profound impact on your success as a business. It’s just that they aren’t necessarily buying your services or goods in the immediate future. Or maybe they never will.

Let me tell you what the smart kids are doing and will do for many years to come — they look for ways to communicate messages that unite, influence and resonate with all their stakeholders, first and foremost. This means dedicating resources (by which I mean both time and money) into setting up smart, long-term PR strategies.

Then, they create effective, measurable marketing plans that work in concert with their PR plans. This way they get the word out there with advertising, direct mail, events and more — but they tie all this activity back to a clever PR campaign that targets people with the power to shape or break their business success.

So, while it may seem like a good idea to put all your energies and resources into the quick, measurable arms of marketing, consider the importance that PR has in the current climate of transparency and customer-shaped branding and then do as the smart kids do — budget accordingly.