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What Is The Difference Between PR And Media Relations?

Over the last few years, most of the things we know have, in one form or another, moved to the digital sphere. These developments have uprooted, or completely reshaped, entire industries. For one thing, it has blurred lines in terms of what different professions cover or don’t cover. Part of the confusion, for instance, is how PR and media relations differ. But don’t worry, in this short feature, I’ll walk you through some of the key differences and developments, what a media relations strategy is, and how you can use it for your brand or business.

Without further ado, let’s dive into the complexities of the matter. Since PR seems vague to a lot of people, it is not surprising that this feature from the BBC asks: What’s the point of PR? While this shows that it is often unclear what PR actually is, and why we need it, the article also highlights that the public’s view of PR ranges from indifference, to confusion, to straight-forward antipathy.

A matter of definition 💡

Because it all seems terribly complicated, let’s clear some of this fog:

PR, in simple terms, covers the work between an organisation and the general public through means of liaising with journalists, getting featured in the media, and building a brand and a base of clients. This is not to be confused with public affairs, though sometimes falsely used synonymously. Here you can find some of the key differences. And while we’re at it, check out this feature by my colleague Kate to understand how PR differs from marketing and advertising.

With the basic differences to other territories established, let’s tackle the question how PR differs from media relations. Media relations refers to one of the principal modes of PR work: maintaining mutually beneficial relations between journalists and organisations. Through media relations, the public is informed of an organisation’s mission and policies. It is therefore one of the tools by which PR professionals work with to achieve credibility, establish a brand, and manage a reputation for their clients. Check out some further benefits of media relations here. ✨✨

As this article on Forbes points out, media relations has very often been used synonymously with PR, but as a matter of fact, media relations always came first and has become an area of PR expertise. This being said, it becomes clear that the general definition of PR has changed over the past decades, and this has altered, and extended, PR’s ways of operating. While media relations was the first and foremost tactic, in this new reality of push notifications and reputations decided by a single tweet, a new focus is placed on SEOs, new visual possibilities, digital marketing, as well as increased use of social media channels. If you want to find out more about the ways social media has changed traditional PR, go and give this article a read.

If you're interested to find out more on this topic in general, go have a coffee and read -- there's plenty of great content on these matters out there!


Although media relations is no longer enough, and a successful PR campaign involves more, it is still a viable part and can help attract new clients for your organisation. This article on Forbes lists three ways effective PR can achieve this:

👉 “Managing online reputation”

👉 “Serving as tremendous sales and marketing tools”

👉 “Powering site traffic and lead generation”

Combining building blocks, or what is a media relations strategy?

Now that we’ve established how media relations and PR differ, and why both are relevant for your business, let’s have a final look at what a successful media relations strategy comprises of. A media relations strategy is at the core of your overall PR strategy, so it builds the framework of your other endeavours. I’ve already mentioned lead generation before; which is one component of such a strategy. 🧩

According to this post on Criminally Prolific, lead generation “involves developing and cultivating interest in your brand that eventually leads to conversions”, which makes it similar to marketing and ties back to the article on PR and marketing I’ve linked you to before. You realise at this point that while all of these terms are nuanced, they are essentially all interconnected and work together. Combining such building blocks effectively, then, makes for a successful strategy. 💯

Further blocks include the right branding and story you want to narrate, targeting suitable publications, streamlining your content for it, as well as the art of pitching and communication with journalists. If you still feel that this is quite overwhelming, read up on some of the key terms mentioned in the article that I’ve referred to in the beginning of this paragraph and, quite ironically, keep in mind what Erica Schain points out on that matter here: “Don’t overcomplicate it”. As you can guess from this, it’s already complicated enough.👩‍🏫👨‍🏫

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About the Author

Sarah is a PR assistant at GuidedPR. She holds a BA hons in English and Comparative Literature and is currently in the wake of moving to London to start her MA in Modern Literature and Culture at King's College London. She's usually busy writing and consuming caffeine. ☕☕☕

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