Media relations vs public relations: What’s the difference?
Media relations, public relations, it’s all the same thing, right?
Most people assume that media and public relations both describe the connections that business leaders build with media outlets, the public, and news companies.
However, the two terms are a little more separate than you might think.
Public and media relations do both have an impact on the perception that the public has of your company and what you do. Although these two avenues represent a very different collection of branding strategies.
If you find yourself getting confused every time you hear one of these two terms, you’ve come to the right place.
Today, we’re going to discuss the difference between media relations vs. public relations and why they’re both connected in their own way.
What are public relations? An introduction
Ever heard of PR?
We’re not talking about press releases, although you might use a few when developing your public relations strategy.
Public relations is often seen as the relationship between a company and various news or media outlets.
However, that’s not accurate.
Public relations is the art of connecting and communicating with the wider public through a variety of different strategies. The aim of public relations, when it’s used correctly, is to improve the reputation that you have with the general marketplace.
The “public” that you interact with through public relations can include everyone from employees and customers, to government entities, and the media.
For instance, if you wanted to convince the world that you’re a company dedicated to making the environment safer, then you would use PR (and some careful marketing) to do that.
Public relations takes into account the wider picture of how a business relates to the public at large.
Usually, your PR strategy will go hand-in-hand with marketing campaigns, to improve your chances of driving a specific message home with your audience.
If you hire the services of a public relations company, they will often work with your senior management to deal instantly with the critical external and internal events and actions that your business takes.
Both the internet and traditional media are now a part of the public relations toolkit.
What is media relations? The basics
So, if public relations is about connecting with the public at a wider scale, what’s the meaning of media relations?
Well, in today’s world of digital growth and real-time communications, there are plenty of channels that businesses can use to reach their audience through things like videos, eBooks, whitepapers, infographics, and more.
Media relations concentrates on a very specific way of getting your message across – through journalists, reporters, editors, and other authorities in the media.
The problem that many people have with seeing the difference in media and public relations these days is that the number of media outlets is growing.
These days, the word “media” could refer to anything from radio and television, to internet announcements and podcasts.
The point of media relations is that you work through another outlet or group of professionals to filter and amplify your message to the right people.
You might have a whole team in your business that works on interacting with different types of media outlets, or you might just work on a one-on-one basis with journalists from your favourite magazine.
Because the content that you put out through media entities can have a huge impact on your public perception, there isn’t a decision to make in whether you need public relations vs media relations.
Instead, most companies will have to create a strategy that combines both fields.
While public relations will help you to think about your messaging, your tone of voice, and everything you do to present yourself to the public, media relations will take a different approach.
With media relations, you’ll focus your message through a very distinct pipeline, to influence a particular audience.
Coming to terms with public relations vs media relations
Still feeling confused?
The changing nature of media as we know it means that media and public relations are becoming increasingly intertwined. There are even quite a few PR experts out there that get the two mixed up sometimes.
As more channels of communication develop, it’s becoming very difficult to see the line between the media and the public.
For example, can you really tell the difference between say, an online news outlet, and a blog that publishes commentary on the latest news these days?
The best way to settle the debate of media vs public relations is to think of media as a sub-set of the public relations environment.
According to the PR Society of America, public relations is all about building a relationship with stakeholders (the public) through a range of platforms. In other words, you find a multitude of ways to connect with your wider audience.
This might include things like discussions on an influential podcast, or publishing a vlog.
Your marketing campaigns are essentially a part of your public relations strategy because they influence how your audience perceives you. However, the events that you run, your CSR initiatives, and your news announcements all belong to the PR realm too.
Public relations is an all-encompassing concept in building a business reputation, and media relations is just one component of this. With media relations, you use connections with members of the “media”, like influencers, editors, and publishers, to influence public opinion.
Why is media relations important to public relations?
Although media relations is just a part of the public relations story, it’s still important.
Just like other public relations strategies, your media relations campaigns will help to build affinity with your target audience. Of course, you will need to make sure that you’re interacting with the right media.
If you were hosting events on your own, and publishing blogs on the web, you would technically be engaging in some manner of public relations. After all, you’re creating assets that change how your audience perceives you.
However, without media relations, there’s no guarantee that you’ll reach the right “public” and make the best impression.
Public relations is how you develop your brand story. It influences what you want to say, who you want to say it to, and what kind of reactions you want to get.
With your public relations strategy, you develop an idea of how you’re going to approach the public and how you want them to perceive you.
On the other hand, with media relations, you get a broadcasting solution for that story.
Rather than you just shouting about your business on any platform you can find, you use media relations to give your business a megaphone.
The media entities that you connect with will give your message more weight, and help you to reach the right people.
Achieving success with public relations
In today’s complex world, the number of media placements and announcements that you can get will have an impact on how loudly you can spread the word on your company. There are many definitions of success in a public relations campaign.