PR Campaigns – The blog

March 15, 2009

Publicity vs PR

Filed under: Precision PR — elwhite2 @ 9:18 pm
Tags: , , , ,

So I came across a post on Seth Godin’s Blog called “The Difference Between PR and Publicity” and found it extremely interesting. I guess I have never really sat down and thought to myself that maybe these two words could mean different things. I just assumed that PR practitioners create publicity and that was about it. However, after reading this blog I have found that maybe there is a bit more to it.

Seth Godin says that most PR firms  “do publicity” not PR. He says that publicity is getting ink for your client. It’s about getting unpaid media to draw attention to you, point to you, write you up and cause commotion. Where as PR is the crafting of your story and “focused examination of  your  interactions and tactics and products and pricing that, when combined determine how people talk to you.”

He mentions the work of the Silicon Valley  Marketing Guru Regis McKenna, who got Steve Jobs and the Mac on the cover of more than 30 magazine covers the year it was launched. Godin notes that this was great publicity however, the brilliant PR was in the crafting of the story of the Mac.

According to Godin, a publicity firm will tell you how they got a client ink. Whereas, a PR firm will tell you how they spread their client’s story through great storytelling. He says they might even suggest you not bother getting ink or even issuing a press release.

Now that you have heard Seth Godin’s separate definitions of PR and Publicity what do you think about these two words? Did you know that there was such a dividing line between the two? And do you agree that PR practitioners, who’s jobs are to tell stories, might suggest not to bother  with issuing press releases?

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8 Comments »

  1. I think it is a good idea for all PR professionals to understand the distinction between these terms. The are often used interchangeably, but it is clear that there exists a vital distinction. Just because an organization may get its name in every major newspaper, does not necessarily mean that the company is succeeding in terms of strategy and profit. Sure, many people may know about your product or service and all of the influential’s have discussed it, but if it doesn’t translate to altered consumer attitudes and behaviors, it is meaningless. As we have learned from the in class case studies, this mistake is commonly made. Too often, it seems, PR companies measure campaign success in inches and eyeballs. But true PR success is measured in organization advancement and achievement of goals. Press releases may always be relevant, but it is important to remember that it doesn’t matter if the media pay attention to the release. What is important is that the target publics pay attention so much that behaviors are changed.

    Comment by plepkows — March 16, 2009 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

  2. I think this is a really good post. I think publicity and PR are used as one in the same way too much. I liked the definitions Seth Godin used because they were very specific and showed the differences between the two. I guess I never really thought there was such a distinct line. I always thought publicity was a small portion of PR, but not necessarily that it was it’s own practice. I think that press releases are still relevant and as PR practitioners we just need to find creative ways to get the media to notice our releases and get them excited to write about our clients. As said in the previous comment, the most important part is to reach the target audience.

    Comment by kparma — March 16, 2009 @ 2:25 pm | Reply

  3. Plepkows- you do raise a great point that we have gone over in class. PR companies measure campaign success in inches an eyeballs and that does not always determine success. Great point to bring up!

    Kparma-I agree that we cant just not write press releases. It is our job to be creative and craft them so that the media is interested. Switching up the writing style of a press release might be a good idea so that its not just a dry, boring press release similar to the other 5 they have on their desk.

    Comment by elwhite2 — March 16, 2009 @ 2:39 pm | Reply

  4. This really brings up a great point. I think a lot of people are under the impression that PR is all about publicity and getting your client in the “ink.” While that might be part of it, I agree in stating that it is not the whole picture. Kparma- you said it best, it’s our goal to reach out target audience. As the PR Professional, I might think that the press release is the best way to tell the story and to reach that target audience. It really depends on what story you are trying to tell and who you are trying to tell it to.

    Comment by Nancy Flores — March 16, 2009 @ 6:04 pm | Reply

  5. Writing press releases is definitely a must-do for PR practitioners. The problem occurs when that’s all people depend on as a PR campaign. So many more types of tactics need to be used, but that doesn’t mean forgetting about press releases all together. Press releases are how we can use the media as intermediaries to our stakeholder and it’s how we can generate a lot of discussion in the media – i.e. agenda setting.

    Comment by cafuller — March 16, 2009 @ 7:17 pm | Reply

  6. I think that this is a really good post. I beleive that often times it is just assumed that public relations and publicity go hand-in-hand. In reality they are two different, distinct concepts, and so they must be appraoched from two different angels. Maybe I am just partial to public relations, but I beleive that it takes skills to sell a story and not just get a clients name or mug in print.

    Comment by jejepson — March 16, 2009 @ 9:49 pm | Reply

  7. I think “publicity” has received a negative connotation. As PR practitioners we are constantly defending ourselves. We aren’t spin doctors or liars. We avoid today’s negative buzz words. I worked for the publicity department of a PR firm. I think it’s a totally neccessary part of PR.

    Comment by mgjersvi — March 16, 2009 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

  8. Literally, there is a difference between the definitions but that doesn’t really matter. If enough people believe that publicity is public relations, then they are right despite what anyone else thinks.

    Defining words, ideas and concepts is something I find stupid and a waste of time. While I like to think Mr. Godin likes to waste my time and profit from it (read: Tribes), he apparently likes to waste his time creating little boxes in his mind separating PR and publicity from each other while it is obvious that they overlap (Then I of course waste my time creating this post about it).

    I bet Mr. Godin doesn’t like his foods to mix when he’s eating.

    Comment by mjcavaleri — March 19, 2009 @ 4:01 am | Reply


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