Publicity or Public Relations?

From goal line technology to the Eurozone crisis to reality TV, we all have an opinion and enjoy healthy debate. Read the views from The Drum’s Midlands PR Agency of the Year Willoughby PR, an award winning traditional and digital PR agency working for clients across the UK.

Stephen Graham of WPR Agency blogs on publicity, public relations and why trying to draw a line between the two isn't important.

Take a look at the Twitter conversation in the image to the right. Hardly an intense debate I know but it did stop and make me think.

The conversation was sparked after I blogged about a PR Stunt I spotted down under which is worth checking out here.

According to Peter Heath (@comment8tor) the stunt in question was publicity and not public relations, the suggestion being that the two had been confused (and also that a distinction between the two is important. Rich Leigh (@GoodandBadPR) suggested that this might have been a needless quarrel with semantics, but Peter Heath’s response was nay, and he claimed that the “continued blurring of lines buggers things up for those doing proper PR.” I won’t comment on the hubristic use of the adjective ‘proper,’ oh wait - I kind of did, but I do wonder how exactly it ‘buggers’ things up?

In fairness to Peter, I think he is making a very valid point in his blog which he kindly shared and I can certainly appreciate his stance on the matter that sometimes people don’t understand the whole scope of Public Relations. However, I couldn’t help but question why it was so important to define publicity as distinct from PR, especially straight after admitting that it falls under the same tent.

The PR mix is obviously huge, and as far as I am concerned it is still an evolving catalogue of facets (many PRs who also work with social media might consider themselves to be suitably qualified in customer relations).

Focusing on the relationship part of “Public Relations,” it is also worth pointing out that quite often, unless there is initially some form of publicity, attention grabbing conversation starter come ice-breaker, there isn’t going to be a relationship to nurture and no worthwhile two-way dialogue can be conducted. Naturally, the approach needs to be different for different brands/organisations/people – a PLC might not need to grab attention for example. A good PR will know when publicity needs to be part of the overall campaign.

As much as listening and participating in conversations is the bread and butter of PR, there is another vital component which makes the discipline more than just two-way conversations. We are the media now, you and I, so facilitating conversations is just as important as listening and participating in them. In the post-digital revolution communication has become 3 dimensional.

So whether one day I’m a “hype merchant” trying to inject virality into a campaign and the other day I’m doing “proper” PR, I quite frankly, do not care. It’s all part of the mix and all equally important.

In other words, life's too short.

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