Public Relations vs. Marketing: The Information Professional's Role as Mediator

By Bussey, Holly J. | Special Libraries, Summer 1991 | Go to article overview

Public Relations vs. Marketing: The Information Professional's Role as Mediator


Bussey, Holly J., Special Libraries


Branding vs. Public Relations:

The Information Professional's Role

as Mediator

For quite some time, there has been a battle raging in organizations. No rifles have been pointed, but strategic moves have been executed. The battle has been between marketing and public relations.

Information professionals are now beginning to experience their own personal battle with these same two factions. The conflict is more concentrated and on a micro-scale. Why? Because in many cases, the information professional must represent both sides. The functions are confusing and managers must recognize and use the differences and similarities of both these disciplines if the information operation is to thrive.

Within the information profession, much time has been devoted to the marketing of libraries. Special courses have been offered, numerous articles published, and many hours of discussion have been devoted to the topic. Yet it has been only recently that the Special Libraries Association has placed public relations on a high priority in terms of its strategic planning.

There is a growing confussion between the roles of marketing and public relations in organizations. [1] Among information professionals, public relations has been a stepchild of marketing. This article discusses the differences and similarities of marketing and public relations. It will review the evolution of the two disciplines and will also examine how the two, in balance, can work as an integrated communications package to effectively justify and promote the information department.

What Does It Mean?

In order to integrate public relations and marketing it is necessary to understand them as separate entities. They cannot be examined until a working definition is provided. Books have been written on what each discipline is, but to put it succinctly, the purpose of public relations is to manage image, while the purpose of marketing is to manage demand. [2] For the information professional, this translates to the following: you are making your department when you provide services to your primary users, account people, executives, faculty. You are develop your operation through public relations by appealing to those departments who do not normally interact with your area through a variety of methods, newsletters, logos. Public relations concentrates on the non-tangible or the psychological, not the hard sell or physical goods as does marketing.

Which Came First--The

The Chicken or the Egg?

Marketing's origins trace back to the ancient function known as selling, with which it is still confused. Goods were traded and the fine art of negotiation was born and endures today. By the late nineteenth century, mass communication became a vital part of a manufacturer's business plan. Advertising became a valued supplement to normal sales activities. The rapid growth of national markets in the 20th century increased the need for marketing information on which a company could plan their future. Sellers recognized that they could reduce their risk by spending money to find out what customers really wanted and how customers perceived their products.

The marketing department evolved from these three functions: sales, advertising, and marketing research. The purpose of the marketing department was to develop a balanced marketing program that coordinated all the marketing mix instruments and the force that impinged on the customer. [3]

Public relations has its roots in ancient history. The three main elements of public relations are as old as society: 1) informing people, 2) persuading people, and 3) integrating people, with people. [4] Edward Bernays, one of the fathers of public relations, traced it from primitive society, in which leaders controlled by force, intimidation, and persuasion, to Babylonia where kings commissioned historians to paint favorable images of them. …

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Public Relations vs. Marketing: The Information Professional's Role as Mediator
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