In the field of corporate communications in general, a tricky balance is maintained. On the one hand, this is a field that requires the achievement of specific goals and use of resources, but on the other, often using somewhat loosely-defined methods. For instance – the definition of public relations isn’t always clear, especially when compared to corporate communications in general. When do you hire a communication agency for your project?
And is that the same as hiring someone for PR?
We’re going to tackle these intricacies right here!
PR and Communications
What exactly is the job of a communications agency, and does it involve PR?
Well, the words “public relations” are not always used with the same exact meaning, and their precise meaning may vary depending on the context.
However, everyone who works in PR is certainly a communicator; the overlap between them is pretty obvious.
You may find that the term “communications” is more widely used, seeing as PR is pretty much exclusive to the corporate world.
Naturally, term definitions are probably not among the most interesting topics even in this field, but we believe that both PR experts and those working in communications, in general, would benefit from knowing them.
It would be safe to draw the following conclusion – the work done by a PR agency and a communication agency are often pretty much overlapping.
Some people use communications as a wider term that encompasses all kinds of communications, including internal corporate communication, stakeholder outreach, media relationships, and reputation building.
On the other hand, most people would define public relations as solely external communication; meaning the above, but without internal communication or communication with stakeholders.
As we’ve just mentioned, corporate communication doesn’t just mean conversing with the public or the media.
The responsibilities received when working in a communication agency mean that you would also have a huge focus on the communications within the specific company or organization.
In other words, experts in such agencies need to perform functions related to employee communications and change communication.
This is a unique part of the work of a communication agency, which may also include PR work.
Public relations and corporate communications may seem similar enough to be interchangeable to the average layman.
In fact, both employers and some curriculums at universities tend to group these two together.
Of course, that is not such a surprise, seeing as the basic skill set required to work in both positions is almost identical.
One must possess a strong, educated, and extroverted voice, and the ability to recognize the best avenue for informing those who need to be informed of critical information in the most efficient way possible.
Naturally, there are differences in the day to day work in a PR agency and a communication agency.
Working in corporate communications means handling every single part of communication activities within an organization, meaning both the communication to outside audiences and those within. For instance, that might mean working to improve the communication flow between somewhat disparate departments in one company, that need to work on a common project.
In practice, this can be anything from bringing attention to goals and events, to working on useful bulletins and informational internal newsletters.
On the external note, you may be writing reports that are read by investors and other stakeholders, as well as cooperating with the public on contemporary social and civic issues.
Keeping this in mind, working in public relations means a more specific and focused experience.
The goal here is to cooperate with the management of a company and see what the most important relationships are between the said company and various public entities.
Then, the point of a good PR strategy is nurturing and improving these relationships as much as possible.
In this regard, building a positive public image of the client company is the single most important goal for a PR agency.
Promotion using publically noticeable channels is the key technique.
To be more precise, PR experts spend a lot of their time cooperating with publishers, editors, and reporters and providing them with carefully selected information on your client.
This type of media relations serves to curate the message which is sent out to the public in relation to your client.
And it becomes the most crucial in times of crisis, or when some sort of rumours or errors could significantly damage the public image of a corporation.
Differences and Overlaps
Keeping all of this in mind, what can we conclude about the relationship between public relations and communication agencies?
Sometimes, the latter also dabble in the former, but rarely vice versa.
Though, it may just so happen that professionals in the world of public relations may fill corporate communication positions in times of need.
After all, as we’ve outlined before, the two jobs require very similar skill sets.
But for people who have no media experience and have only done internal corporate communications, PR may be a tough niche to break into.
Public relations can mean maintaining a very precarious balance between making sure that the right information about your clients reaches the media, without influencing the objective truth too much to be deemed unprofessional.
Having the right contacts is sometimes essential for quality PR.
After all, the relationship between PR and the media is largely interpersonal, so it depends on the specific individuals; having the right media contacts means a lot for a PR position, when it may not always matter in a communication agency, depending on the specific work.
Knowing the right people in the relevant media circles can make all the difference in the world at a specific juncture.