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PR vs the Media: What’s the buzz?

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

The line between Public Relations (PR) and the media is often blurred. Most of the time, certain confusion arises due to a lack of understanding about what each fraternity actually does. PR is all about getting the right message across, to the right people, at the right time. Historically, the media had a very honorable reputation to uphold. Journalists specifically were put on a pedestal and expected to dig out factual information, even if it meant putting their lives at risk. PR on the other hand had the opposite reputation.

PR firms were perceived as communication manipulators who could spin any type of yarn. These perceptions are probably why George Orwell didn’t mince his words when he said “Journalism is printing what someone else did not want printed. Everything else is Public Relations.”  However, PR has evolved over time and if done right, PR can have a significant impact on the profitability of a business. Since consumers are constantly questioning the authenticity of the content they consume, PR firms have a certain sense of accountability. When it comes to building product credibility, they have to be as factual as journalists, even if their job is to completely changing the way people think about a brand.

The dynamic nature of both fraternities and their skewed perceptions of each other make it essential to look at the differences between them and thereby understand how much they actually need each other.

In spite of the fact that PR and the Media share a common goal, which is to inform the public through strategic channels of communication, they operate from wholly different perspectives. Working effectively in PR requires a thorough understanding of the role of journalism in media, and vice versa.

PR vs the Media: The Differences You Need To Know

The two fraternities have stark differences in scope, objectives, target audiences and channels. Let’s look at a few questions that will highlight the key differences between PR and the media.

Who’s boss?

In a nutshell, the best way to understand one of the key differences between the two fraternities is to clue up on who they perceive as their ‘boss’. Unlike PR firms, the media serves only one master- the public. PR professionals can juggle multiple clients at a time and convey the same stories in different ways.

Who’s the audience?

Since journalists aim their information towards the public, their audience is usually consistent. But in the PR world, the target audience keeps changing depending on the message that needs to be relayed or the kind of brand they are creating content for.

What type of stories get told?

Journalists have creative freedom of expression to report stories that they want to because they are constantly on the move sniffing out the next big reveal. PR consultancies on the other hand are working for specific clients and need to craft their story-telling in line with what the brand is looking to promote.

What standpoints get taken?

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two fraternities is the way a story gets reported. Since journalists are often in the hot pursuit of factual information, they always report news from an objective standpoint, irrespective of whether they personally agree with it or not. PR, which is is about the art of persuasion requires consultancies to operate from a subjective standpoint. This is because PR consultancies commit to supporting a brand’s products while also managing conflict and competition in the best interest of the brand.

Befriending the ‘enemy’

Journalists and PR professionals want the same thing- for their stories to be read from start to finish. Respecting what each profession does means acknowledging what it takes to be a journalist or PR professional in 2020.

Despite these differences, PR and the media community need to befriend each other ensuring that neither is used solely as a means to an end. At the end of the day, it all boils down to effective and strategic communication.

So are they really the ‘enemies’ we make them out to be if both fraternities are utilising a variety of shared resources to do their jobs and communicate successfully?

This article was first published on Reputation Today.

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