The Difference Between the “Three P’s” – Public Relations, Publicity and Press Releases

It’s commonly assumed that PR means “press release” but this is misleading and frankly, not true. “PR does not = Press Release” although, press releases are directly related to PR. Often people are unsure of what PR, publicity and press releases really are. They are all related but each is different and has its own function which works symbiotically with the others.

PR is actually an abbreviation for public relations. Press releases are a part of public relations and they generate publicity but they are not PR (they are a part of PR). At the same time, press releases may generate good public relations.

Are you getting confused yet? Let’s simplify this by taking a quick look at the definitions of each provided by the Wictionary (a great, open source dictionary) and Websters Dictionary (my hard copy favorite).

By definition, Public Relations is communication by a person or an organization with the purpose of creating a favorable public image; commonly referred to as PR.

So, in essence, Public Relations are really the strategies surrounding your overall business presence and message. PR is the foundation that allows you to be ready for publicity when it comes your way it’s your core message, business values and image. While any form of communication can be considered public relations including newsletters, ezines, letters, blog posts and yes, press releases, they must all be a part of a much bigger PR strategy.).

Publicity is what is generated by public relations. By definition, Publicity is an act or device designed to attract public interest, specifically information with news value issues as a means of gaining public attention or support.

When you create public relations (communications) it can generate publicity (public attention). Generally the goal of publicity is to gain UNPAID media exposure including ink (print exposure) and air (broadcast mentions), increase word of mouth and get more clients. Publicity is golden to your business because third party endorsements are more believable than paid ads.

By definition a Press Release is an official written statement that is sent to the media so that it can be publicized (although press releases are not crafted just for the media anymore).

Press releases are often referred to as news releases. They are essentially one in the same. However, the term “News release” can be used when the release is not intended solely for media distribution. For example: Online distribution of your news is a no-cost to low-cost way to establish credibility, help customers find you online and increase your online search engine rankings. So, the goal may not be mainstream media attention when you submit online and it would be appropriate to use the term “news release” instead. Either way is perfectly acceptable.

Basically press releases are both a public relations and publicity tool depending on your overall strategy.

Does your business have the three P’s (public relations, publicity and press releases) covered?

1) Do you have an overall Public Relations Strategy that defines your brand, how you want people to perceive you and what you want to accomplish in the way of publicity?

2) Do you create public relations materials to earn publicity based on a specific overall strategy?

3) Do you share your news via press releases, strategically in accordance to your overall PR plan?

If not, it may be time to start focusing on your P’s

P.S. When writing this article I was looking for a great example to share from an article I had once seen in Readers Digest- thanks to Shannon Cherry ( a fellow PR pro) for posting this excerpt on her blog.

“If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying “Circus Coming to the Fairground Saturday'” that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk it into town, that’s promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity. And if you get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations.

If the town’s citizens go the circus, you show them the many entertainment booths, explain how much fun they’ll have spending money at the booths, answer their questions and ultimately, they spend a lot at the circus, that’s sales.”

– Reader’s Digest, “Promoting Issues and Ideas” by M. Booth and Associates, Inc.

What are your favorite PR strategies? Do you have a PR plan?

5 Personality Traits You Need to Succeed in Public Relations

A colleague new to my agency once regaled us with a conversation he had with an older cousin of his at a family wedding. My colleague, then new at the job, excitedly told his cousin about his new job as a public relations (PR) executive in a boutique PR agency. Unexpectedly, instead of complimenting him on his new career path, the cousin smiled sadly and clapped him on the back.

“I used to do public relations at my old company,” she said. “Good luck. You’re going to need all of it.”

If you think the life of a PR officer is a glitzy, glamorous one of wining, dining, and ‘networking’ with clients, you have another think coming. Ranked by Forbes as one of the 10 most stressful jobs in the world, it is no secret to anyone in the industry that public relations is a highly challenging career path for anyone to take up.

On the flipside, this challenge is what also makes public relations one of the most satisfying careers in the world. There is almost nothing more satisfying than having the press release you have painstakingly amended time and time again getting snapped up for coverage by the media, or having your client congratulate you for overwhelmingly successful results of the PR campaign you and your team had spent hours brainstorming months before.

It is tiring work, but when it pays off, the satisfaction is sublime – mostly because good PR ideas, like all creative outputs, are very personal, and also because of how increasingly necessary it is for a company to practice good public relations.

In an era where instant communication is readily available to the masses, public relations has become vastly more relevant than ever before. The industry has also transformed with the growing need for Online PR, Blogger PR and Social Media Marketing, especially in such a time where communications technology is so widely available and seamless. With the relentless spread of information about everyone and everything, at anytime, it has become more important than ever for businesses to 1) focus on managing the perceptions of their consumers, and 2) gain their attention in a world where attention is becoming an increasingly scarce resource – exactly the roles PR practitioners were made to play.

Do you have what it takes to excel in public relations? Here are 5 personality traits that you will need.

1) Time-Management

Having excellent time-management skills will always be a significant aid to you in any career. However, time-management is especially important in PR, especially in an agency environment where one has to juggle multiple accounts at once. Your email inbox will never stop buzzing, your office phone will never stop ringing, and the ‘URGENT’, ‘IMPORTANT’ tasks on your to-do-list will never stop coming. It is important to be able to prioritise all of these tasks, and to manage your time effectively enough to respond swiftly and efficiently to every one of your client’s enquiries.

In short, if you want to succeed in this industry, dust off that planner you got for Christmas – it will quickly become full in no time at all.

2) Communication

This may seem like a no-brainer, seeing as public relations is, first and foremost, a communications industry. But it is impossible to overstate the importance of being able to communicate clearly and concisely in public relations. It is not just about being able to charm your clients and sweet-talk to the media – we live in a world where the attention span of the average consumer is becoming shorter and shorter, and subsequently, the word-limits for communication too.

Having good communication skills is not all about having an extensive vocabulary, impeccable grammar, and speaking with confidence any longer. You need to be able to grab your audience’s attention by its shirt lapels and keep it there in the simplest way possible.

3) Familiarity with Technology

Technophobia is simply not an option if you want to enter the communications industry. While traditional media and press releases are still the bread and butter of public relations, consumer attention is becoming increasingly focused on the web these days. Take a good look at any recent publicity campaign. More often than not they are centered on smartphone apps, social media movements, or viral videos. To produce these things, a good public relations officer will need to comfortably wield an arsenal of social media, software, and hardware.

4) Creativity

A memorable quote from Thank You For Smoking, a film about a smooth-talking tobacco lobbyist: “That’s the beauty of argument. If you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.”

While the film is not specifically about the public relations industry, this line is extremely applicable. Clients are not always going to provide things that are immediately appealing to the public. If they did, they would not require public relations at all. However, every account you are assigned to will have something interesting to publicize – it is only a question of angling it in the right way, which is the job of everyone in public relations.

Be creative. Find the appealing angle.

5) Responsibility

This is the last item on our list, but it certainly isn’t the least. From having an astute eye for small details in the content your produce for clients, being quick to respond to client and media inquiries, having a fervor to learn new things to better serve your clients, to being able to promise clients results and actually deliver them, having a strong sense of responsibility is intrinsic in all aspects of public relations.

Let’s Blow The Lid Off Public Relations

And show it for what it is – a humdinger of a strategy
machine using cutting-edge communications tactics that
lead directly to program success. And all because
perceptions were altered, behaviors modified and the
employer/client satisfied with the end result.

When everybody benefits like that, blowing the lid off
public relations is not only justified, it’s necessary!

Do you take the core strengths of public relations into
account as you manage those communications tactics?

Because if you don’t, you’re missing the sweet-spot of
public relations. The communications tactics you use
must work together to create the behavioral change you
want in certain groups of people important to the success
of your business.

But NO organization – business, non-profit, association
or public sector – can succeed today unless the behaviors
of its most important audiences are in-sync with the
organization’s objectives.

For your operation, that means public relations professionals
must modify somebody’s behavior if they are to help hit your
objective – all else are means to that end.

Which is why, when public relations goes on to successfully
create, change or reinforce public opinion by reaching,
persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose
behaviors affect the organization, it accomplishes its mission.

How can we be so certain? Question: how can you measure
the results of an activity more accurately than when you
clearly achieve the goal you set at the beginning of that
activity? You can’t. It defines success.

Public relations is no different. The client/employer wants
our help in altering counterproductive perceptions among
key audiences which almost always change behaviors in a
way that helps him or her get to where they want to be.

Now, to achieve that goal, public relations practitioners
must be skilled in many tactical disciplines. Everything
from media relations, public speaking and a dozen kinds
of writing to financial communications, special events,
issue tracking and crisis management, to name just a few.

But too often, the employer/client’s tendency is to see little
beyond a tactic’s immediate impact. For example, a speech
and how it was received, a news release and how it was
picked up and presented in a newspaper or on TV, or a
special event and the audience’s reaction.

Of course those concerns are understandable and shouldn’t be
lightly dismissed. But the question also must be asked, to
what end are we applying those tactics?

Well, WHY do we employ public relations tactics anyway?
Could it be for the pure pleasure of doing surveys, making
speeches or editing company magazines? Not likely. We
employ public relations so that, at the end of the day,
somebody’s behavior gets modified.

That leads us directly to the core strength of public relations:
people act on their perception of the facts; those perceptions
lead to certain behaviors; and something can be done about
those perceptions and behaviors that leads to achieving an
organization’s objectives.

To assess those behavior changes and, thus, the degree of
success the core public relations program has achieved, look
for evidence that your tactics have actually changed behavior.
Signs should begin showing up via Internet chatter, in print
and broadcast news coverage, reports from the field, letters-to-
the-editor, consumer and customer reactions, shareholder
letters and comments from community leaders.

Consider doing informal polls of employees, retirees,
industrial neighbors and local businesses as well as collecting
feedback from suppliers, elected officials, union leaders and
government agencies.

The point of this article is that the core strength of public
relations places a special burden on each tactic selected to
carry the message to a target audience: does it/will it make
a tangible, action-producing contribution towards altering
target audience perceptions and behaviors? If not, it should be
dropped and replaced with a tactic that does.

That way, only the strongest tactics will be used allowing public
relations to apply its core strength to the challenge at hand:
create, change or reinforce public opinion by reaching,
persuading and moving-to-desired-action those people whose
behaviors affect the organization.

What do I believe the employer/client wants from us? I
believe s/he wants us to use our expertise in a way that helps
achieve his or her business objectives. But regardless of what
strategic plan we create to solve a problem, regardless of what
tactical program we put in place, when all is said and done, we
must modify somebody’s behavior if we are to earn our keep.

So, not one, not two, but three benefits result when the behavioral
changes become apparent, and meet the program’s original
behavior modification goal: First and most important, the public
relations effort is a success.

Second, by achieving the behavioral goal you set at the beginning,
you are taking advantage of a dependable and accurate public relations
performance measurement.

Finally, when the “reach, persuade and move-to-desired-action”
efforts produce a visible, and desired modification in the behaviors
of those people you wish to influence, you are using public relations’
core strength to its full benefit.

Please feel free to publish this article and resource box in your
ezine, newsletter, offline publication or website. A copy would
be appreciated at [email protected].

Robert A. Kelly © 2005.