Public Relations vs Publicity

Nov 16, 2016

These terms are often used interchangeably, but they mean two very different things. Even marketers confuse them. Publicity is one aspect of public relations. Think of it as just one tool in the tool kit of PR. Understanding the characteristics of each practice can help you to better execute them.

Public Relations vs Publicity

Public relations is your entire vision. It is how you want your business to be viewed by the general public and how you plan to bring that vision to life. Public relations includes sending strategic messages to the targeted audiences with the intention of influencing their behavior or opinions in some way. Your corporate message, community participation, reputation, crises, marketing, image, good press and bad press are all under the umbrella of public relations. Public relations does not deal directly with the people. You are putting information out there that may or may not receive engagement. Because it has such a calculated planning process, PR materials often have an air of removal unless they have specifically been written to connect with the  reader in a personal way. 

Public Relations vs Publicity -- RedMoxy CommunicationsThe sole purpose of publicity is to gain or redirect attention. Imagine public relations as a year, and publicity as a day. Publicity is a small part of public relations. However, you should not discredit the importance of publicity, as it strengthens your overall PR strategy. Publicity is the effort to gain coverage in newspapers, magazines, online and on television, to name just a few outlets. Publicists foster relationships with the media on behalf of the client. In most cases, you will be given a vision by a client and be asked to execute it. However, reality does not always match expectation and it may be impossible to deliver. The media is notoriously volatile and unreliable.

We have heard the phrase “all publicity is good publicity,” and this remains true in most situations, unless a truly horrendous act has been committed. The goal of publicity is to get the name of your client out there. The average person remembers very little of what he or she reads, especially when just skimming their Sunday paper, so do not fret about one mediocre article. The hope is that the reader will be able to recall the name of your company at a future date. 

Good publicity does not automatically translate to increased sales. It takes a full marketing and public relations plan to accomplish this.