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  • Ericka Smith

The Difference Between Public Relations and Media Relations

Are public relations and media relations interchangeable? That has been a burning question for decades but many public relations practitioners would say no. Though the concepts cross paths, public relations deals with every public of an organization, while media relations focuses solely on publicity.

According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), “Public relations is a strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Public relations practitioners maintain an organization’s image by communicating the brand message to all publics associated with the company, not just the media. Public relations practitioners also reach out to employees, customers, government, competitors and investors.

While public relations may seem superior, the role of a media relations specialist is important as well. Media relations specialists specifically interact with journalists, reporters, editors, bloggers, television and radio to communicate the message of an organization. The job duties of a media relations specialist often consists of writing press releases, creating positive publicity, following up on interviews, generating quotes and combating negative press.

While media relations is one sector of public relations, the two often function independently. Media relations deals with communicating a message between the organization and media outlets, while public relations focuses on a bigger picture, communicating the organization’s message to any public that identifies with the company, stakeholders, customers, government etc.

Though the two may differ in their purpose, the end goal is always the same. They both have the goal of maintaining and facilitating a good brand message for their client. They also have to work together.

For example, instead of waiting on news outlets to share a story, media relations specialists can create a buzz themselves through social media. Where does public relations come into play? A public relations practitioner can help the media relations specialist figure out how to reach the company’s target audience, what’s the best platform to publish the message on and what’s the best time of day to post the message. The public relations practitioner can also directly interact with customers and give the organization a human voice.

Public relations and media relations are not interchangeable. They both are connected but convey messages to different audiences. They must work together in the end to facilitate a good message for their brand.

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