PRSA Portland Metro Chapter

Understanding the Blurred Lines Between Marketing and Public Relations


Dec 15


By Sylke Neal-Finnegan, APR

VP Professional Development and Chief Development Officer, PRSA Portland

I remember there was a time in the not-so-distant past when the line between marketing and public relations was solid, indestructible. Then comes social media, then native advertising, and today, those lines between the two disciplines have blurred to the point of confusion.

The basic tenets of PR haven’t changed, and it’s our obligation as PR professionals to continue to conduct ourselves ethically. However, with the role of PR and how it fits into the marketing equation changing rapidly, it’s important to take a step back and look at how these changes affect our profession, as well as our roles as responsible PR practitioners.

Social Media

In 2008, there was a debate among marketers about whose responsibility it was to handle an organization’s social media. There were two camps of thought: those who thought it was the marketing team’s responsibility, and those who thought it belonged to the public relations team, because, well…messaging.

This debate may never be solved; nonetheless, one truth remains. Social media has changed the PR profession, and for the better. Never before have we had so many opportunities to talk directly to our audiences. The advent of this new communications channel also gives us unprecedented access to journalists. While social media doesn’t replace our traditional media relationships, it does afford us PR pros the ability to get our messages out, and, when done properly, control our messages.

Native Advertising

More recently, much ballyhoo has erupted over native advertising and its impact on our profession. Some find these sponsored, editorial-style online content pieces a threat to our profession. But it’s the contrary. The creation of native advertising actually is a boon to PR professionals.

As strategic storytellers, we can deftly tell the story of our clients’ brands in sponsored stories, as well as continue to work a story in more traditional ways and leverage the boost native advertising may give brands.

As our profession continues to adapt to a changing world, and as the roles between marketing and public relations are continually being blurred, it is imperative that we, as PR professionals, continue to embrace all means of communication that now are at our fingertips.

Sylke Neal-Finnegan, APR, is director of marketing and communications for the Washington County Visitors Association, a tourism destination marketing organization. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the public relations profession.

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