Public Relations Versus Marketing Communications: Can One Write For The Other?

Speech bubbles at ErgA few weeks ago I asked Jayme Soulati–a favorite PR pro of mine–for a guest post addressing a topic she didn’t feel she “could tackle with aplomb.” So I let her off the hook (because I really, really wanted to give her experience and palpable energy the spotlight here), and left the topic-picking to her. I wasn’t disappointed. Her thoughts–and any ensuing discussion–on public relations versus marketing communications are important for business owners and communications professionals alike to note as they hire and bid for projects. Do you have strengths in one, the other, or both? What makes you think so?

Brushing my teeth one morning this week, I came up with this awesome topic which spurred Shakirah onward with a challenge: let’s see it, Soulati!

Here we go…

Writing styles between marketing and PR–never the twain shall meat (yes, that’s intended… meat). Because one of them butchers the other with a cleaver, and the recipient of said hacking cringes in despair. Usually, it’s PR writing going under the blade of a marketing writer.

But, let me correct that: marketing and PR–never the twain shall meet. It’s impossible for marketing to write for PR, but it is possible for PR to write for marketing. (Hmm, how shall I explain that?)

As a public relations practitioner of 27 years, I’ve done my fair share of writing for marketing. I use my news style, add some copywriter prose, sprinkle in some flowers, and emulate the tonality of the person/product/thing I’m writing for. Invariably, there are edits, but 99 percent of the time what I write is more solid than what I get to work with at the outset.

Remember one thing whilst you ponder; everyone is an editor and they believe themselves to also be a good writer. When PR is writing for marketing, CHECK THE EGO! No way will any marketer allow any writing to slip by unedited.

In this era of folks on the street seeking work, there is many a marketer seeking work from PR peeps. I know this to be true. My dilemma in hiring a marketer to write for public relations goes like this:

Marketing is analytical and sales oriented. Its job is to generate leads, sell stuff, and influence the buy. That’s NOT how PR writes at all, ever. It’s hard to change up that style of writing and use an inverted pyramid with a news flash on top. (Here’s a secret for you, many a PR writer still has trouble burying the lede, too.)

Marketing is more business than PR; I hate to admit this, but I believe it’s true. In a news release or feature story, that style may fly and it may not (usually the latter).

Marketing writers like to dig in deep; no harm there, but PR is trying to sell a story with a broader appeal via several angles that tie to current events (rather than digging a deeper spiral).

Copywriters do extremely well writing for marketing; they also do very well writing for PR when there is a feature story to tell. When marketing gets into storytelling mode via the written word, I’m at a loss how to parlay that into journalistic style.

Before I get carried away and state so strongly that no marketing peep can write for anyone in PR and vice versa, let me clearly say that there are those who can! This is not a blanket statement for all of us in this profession…there are brilliant writers who can emulate any style required; however, they are certainly pressing their comfort zone to do it.

Jayme Soulati is president of Soulati Media, Inc., a virtual PR firm blending social media and marketing. She is a writer, strategist and blogger. You can find her blogging at Soulati-‘TUDE! and all over the interwebs.

Photo credit: Marc Wathieu, courtesy of Flickr, CC 2.0.

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