Public relations and public affairs are two different services.
While both public relations and public affairs involve engaging with the public and attempting to shape public opinion, there are many key differences to both. — Getty Images/Cecilie_Arcurs

Public relations and public affairs both have a role in shaping public opinion, but they go about it in very different ways. If you think you need one of these services but aren’t sure what the difference is, this article will help.

Definition of public relations

Public relations focuses mostly on marketing and aims to help improve the image of a company or individual. But instead of taking out paid advertisements, PR professionals do this by attempting to generate positive publicity.

Essentially, the PR team you hire will assess your company, find any useful messages and contributions and turn these into a positive marketing story. They’ll use social media, press and word-of-mouth to try to generate some buzz around your company.

And if things suddenly go south for your company, a PR company will formulate a response and find a way to frame it in the best possible light. Here are some of the ways they might do this:

  • Drafting press releases.
  • Public relations crisis management.
  • Send pitches to journalists.
  • Reaching out to media outlets.
  • Branding.
  • Social media.
  • Blogging and writing.
  • Launching PR campaigns.
  • Writing speeches.

[Read More: Public Relations Guide for Small Business]

Public relations and public affairs both have a role in shaping public opinion, but they go about it in very different ways.

Definition of public affairs

Individuals who work in public affairs will also work with companies and individuals, but this industry tends to focus on public policy and lawmaking. When federal and state legislators pass new laws, this has an effect on business interests.

Public affairs can also involve helping corporations build goodwill with their stakeholders. Stakeholders are a key part of any business, so it’s in a company’s best interest to maintain a strong relationship with them.

Companies often use public affairs as a way to bridge the gap between business interests and public policy. Here are some of the ways public affairs does this:

  • Regularly establishing contact with politicians, political advisors and government regulators.
  • Maintaining a strong relationship with company stakeholders.
  • Monitoring policy proceedings.
  • Contacting journalists.
  • Building relationships with media outlets.
  • Leveraging the power of words to influence public policy.

[Read More: How to Get Press Coverage With a Small Budget]

Public relations vs. Public affairs: What’s the difference?

You’ll find PR and public affairs professionals working in a variety of industries, including nonprofits, government agencies, corporations and private companies. In many ways, these two professions require similar skill sets and activities.

Both careers involve engaging with the public and attempting to shape public opinion. Both positions involve creating and managing public outreach strategies that will elicit a response and build relationships.

However, that is really the extent of their similarities. PR is usually focused on helping companies from a marketing perspective. A public relations campaign will focus on generating goodwill for a company and gaining awareness about its product or service.

On the other hand, public affairs is a more political industry and focuses on influencing policy. It may also help corporations build relationships with stakeholders, but there is rarely a commercial objective behind a public affairs campaign.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published April 27, 2020