In my personal experience, I’ve found that most people don’t know the real difference between public relations and promotion. I have a palm-to-forehead reaction when I tell someone I am studying public relations and they say, “Oh, like advertising?”
Public Relations is “the value-driven management function that helps establish and maintain mutually beneficial, long-term relationships between an organization and its external as well as internal publics through continuous two-way communication to serve both the organization’s and the publics interest in the democracy toward this goal” (Fuse). In simple terms, public relations is the management of the relationships an organization has with its internal publics (like employees) and its external publics (like donors). Public relations is all about earned media, while advertising is paid media. Earned media is free, but is more difficult to achieve than paid media. Networking is also an indispensable part of the public relations industry.
Promotion on the other hand is an attempt to increase awareness and traffic for an organization, a blog or an event through a variety of traditional and non-traditional media channels. Promotion focuses on short-term goals, while public relations focuses on long-term goals.
Although public relations agencies and professionals may use promotional tactics while executing communications plans, that is not their main purpose.
This infographic is a great illustration of what promotion can involve:
In today’s world, public relations is a necessary management function in any business or organization. Public relations is most effective when it works hand-in-hand with company leadership. And it is usually best if the CEO is the company’s spokesperson, not a PR professional. Its publics want to hear from the men and women who have the power and are making decisions.
Although promotion, advertising and marketing are also important functions, public relations is absolutely necessary and invaluable.
Fuse, Koji. (2014). University of North Texas.