Public relations and publicity are terms that are often used interchangeably. We think that this is an error that is worth correcting. Although PR and publicity are related, they are not the same thing. Let’s have a look at the difference.
What is publicity?
The dictionary defines publicity as, “The notice or attention given to someone or something by the media.” The media can take notice of a company, organization or individual. It usually takes the form of news coverage, feature stories, executive interviews, and speaking engagements. Publicity can be great for brands, building awareness and gaining broad exposure.
Doesn’t that describe public relations?
Nope. Publicity is one aspect of public relations, but the practice of PR encompasses much more. PR pros are responsible for the brand’s image, reputation, and business results. Publicity is one part of the overall strategy, but certainly not the only one. In fact, at times it can be the responsibility of the PR pro to help the brand avoid publicity. Here are some of the other tools in the PR toolbox.
Messaging and Identity: Perhaps the most important thing that PR professionals do is to craft the core messages of the brand. They get to the heart of what the brand is, why it exists, and what sets it apart from its competitors. They develop the language and personality of the brand. Marketers can then use this framework to craft advertising messages.
Content and Storytelling: Public Relations teams work alongside marketing to develop compelling content that will tell the story of the brand and its customers, encourage interaction, and drive people to act.
Reputation Monitoring and Management: As I mentioned before, publicity isn’t always a good thing. It’s the PR professional’s responsibility to monitor every channel, including social median and review sites to ensure that the brand’s reputation remains intact. They must decide whether and how to respond to negative comments and ensure that positive ones outweigh them.
Competitive Analysis: It is important that PR teams understand what the competition is saying to the market and how they are getting their message out. Sometimes this will reveal opportunities for publicity, but it can also inform decisions about PR campaigns, messages, and content.
Publicity is certainly an important part of Public Relations. And it isn’t surprising that many people conflate the two. It is the “public” part of PR after all. But smart pros know that it is only one of the many ways that PR teams contribute to the health of the brand.