Public affairs and public relations – an earnest assessment

Came across this delightfully earnest dissertation by Ulla Bartsch on the difference between public affairs and public relations at Beyond the Spin.

I too, remember wondering at how few marcomms clients we had when I first joined the Toronto office of a full-service global PR firm. In fact we had more than I’d first realized, high tech clients were pretty exclusively marcomms clients. Their primary goal was to garner positive media coverage that supported marketing efforts and ultimately drove sales. The health practise was all about selling more drugs.

But corporate communications was about exciting, real things like corporate reputation management and issues management and community and stakeholder consultations and crisis communications. And then corporate social responsibility and now, about social media and the way citizens have been universally empowered through interactivity.

We worked closely with our public affairs colleagues, because they were the ultimate source of information about what was really going on. We got reports the instant they were transcribed. We’d sometimes get oral briefings that would guide us in our approach. It’s all about communicating persuasively, baby.

So many of these listening tools are now provided by social media, whether it’s live blogging or Twitter, news aggregator or citizen journalism sites – the opportunities to acquire information are now available at warp speed.

But back to the PR/PA debate: no one ever had better brainstormers, or more of them, or more varied formats for brainers, than the marcomms people. I was delighted to be invited to many of them, where we could eat candy, get silly, and come up with some amazing ideas.

Which is why I hope to build a PR practice that includes a variety of clients with a variety of needs.

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About ruthseeley

Ottawa born, Toronto educated, lived in the Lower Mainland and southern AB for more than a decade. Geographically, I get around a bit (at least within Canada). Passionate about community, democracy, and good books. Fond of the Oxford comma.
This entry was posted in Blogging, crisis communications, issues management, public relations, Social media and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Public affairs and public relations – an earnest assessment

  1. Thanks for reflecting on this debate. All I’ll add now is a note on The Importance of Being Earnest!

  2. ruthseeley says:

    Not to mention that the very earnest are usually very endearing as well, Richard.

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