Don’t Confuse Media Relations with Public Relations

biz people walking fast blurred Why? Because connecting with the media is important but connecting with the public is vital! In the Internet era, this distinction is crucial.

It’s easy to confuse the two concepts.  When most of us think of public relations, we think of the PR professionals who are skilled at getting coverage for our organizations in print, on the radio or on TV. Traditionally, that was the most effective way to put our companies and our message in front of the public.  That is no longer true. And, that is why understanding the difference between media relations and public relations becomes even more important.

Even before the Internet era, there was a nuanced difference between public relations and media relations.  Media relations specifically involves building strong relationships with writers, producers, reporters, and editors who are in a position to cover your company.  A PR practitioner who is trusted and respected by those media folks can pick up the phone and always get a hearing–and often get a story for their client.

Public relations always involved the bigger picture.  Public relations is all about how your organization is perceived by the community at large.  This would include the press but also embraces your customers, your prospects, members of the business community, and your fellow human beings.  In this regard, it has always been critical to run a business in an ethical and authentic way so that the public perception of our business is positive.  It has always been essential that our employees treat our customers well.  It has always been essential that we understand our customers and provide solutions that are meaningful to them.  Those are all fundamental underpinnings of good public relations.

Traditionally, a strong media relations campaign was the most effective approach to generate positive publicity, which, in turn, would lead to a positive perception of our company.  Other than our one-on-one dealings with customers and prospects, there was no other effective tool in our marketing arsenal.

The Internet has changed the rules of public relations

David Meerman Scott’s book, The New Rules of Public Relations and Marketing, makes us understand that the Internet enables us to reach out globally without needing the traditional media to make a connection. Moreover, as David emphasizes, when we think of media, we need to think beyond traditional media outlets toward the world of bloggers and podcasters, as well.

When your marketing dollars are limited, you can still create an effective, content rich website that can serve as your public relations foundation.  Because the vast majority of buyers today will go to your website to learn about you and your company, you now have the opportunity to create the same positive perception in their minds that a media relations campaign might have created in days past. 

Does this mean that traditional media is unimportant?  No.  As a matter of fact, if you have a strong web presence that includes a website, a business blog, and an eNewsletter, you have already begun your media relations campaign.  That’s because traditional media reporters and editors are scouring the Internet for information, resources, research, and news.  Thus, if you can position yourself on the web as a thought leader by virtue of your content marketing strategy, you are much more likely to be sought out by the press. I’ll bet that your public relations advisors would second this idea. After all, if you have a powerful web presence, it makes their job a heck of a lot easier.

This entry was posted in In Print, Marketing Basics, News, Online, Public Relations, Trends. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.


  1. Posted June 19, 2008 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    I think this is a very helpful distinction to keep in mind. Not only does it take into consideration the reality of real “public” relations via social media, but it also focuses on the value that traditional PR really does provide, namely media relations. Thanks Newt!

  2. Posted July 13, 2008 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I think that the real PR has started right with the web 2.0 era; just because before media relations was on the top and the rest of the tools didn´t exist actually.

  3. Adedavid Adekunle Olowu
    Posted March 26, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Public relations is intertwined with media relations although they both differ in practice as the task performed by the PR person is distinct from the media relations officer also known as press relations.
    Media relations is an integral part and function of public relations.

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