At a recent trade show I was asked if I was the company publicist. The question took me by surprise and I wish that I had a response better than, “yes, well, basically.”
Not that there is anything wrong with being a publicist, but I believe there is a difference between publicity and public relations. Publicity indicates trying to either keep clients in the news or in some cases keep them out of the news.
While trying to get the media’s attention is certainly one of the tools PR professionals use, I think that public relations is bigger than just a client clipping service. Public relations is about strategic thinking, thought leadership and reputation management.
Strategic thinking is understanding your business and its goals. It is about positioning your company for growth and identifying threats to your organization.
Similarly, thought leadership is about finding new ways to take ownership of your industry–specifically, what you can do differently from the competition to position yourself for growth tomorrow.
Reputation management is protecting your company’s brand. It is putting a crisis plan in place to respond when a hurricane (literal or figurative) hits. It is answering the question, what are threats to your organization’s reputation, by providing thoughtful answers. It is the management of your business’s identity.
There is nothing wrong with publicity or being a publicist, but to think that all PR is just publicity isn’t accurate. The Public Relations Society of America defines public relations as “helping an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” For the the vast majority of cases the definition of publicity is defined very differently.