by Selen Öztürk
Inarguably, corporate strategies set out by Public Affairs (PA) and Public Relations (PR) professionals play a complementary role in achieving corporate interests and objectives. However, having such a function does not justify PA and PR’s interchangeable use, which often results in embarrassment and confusion in professional settings. Thus, it is of grave necessity to distinguish these fields from one another and draw some thick lines for the folk in the business world to avoid mix-ups and misconceptions.
According to the Public Affairs Council and many established organizations worldwide, PA is more of a policy-targeted framework that involves advanced government relations, lobbying, community management, and grassroots advocacy to influence policy-making processes and existing legislation of a given country. Thus, it is fair to argue that PA campaigns often target government action by setting up the conditions required to create public demand.
On the other hand, PR campaigns happen to be much more tailored in terms of creating links between individuals and organizations to satisfy commercial interests, such as the sales of products and services. PR campaigns tend to utilize popular marketing tools and media channels (i.e., social media, TV ads, etc.) more openly when pursuing commercial agendas for private business. Hence, it can be argued from a corporate standpoint that PR’s areas of operation are often perceived as less political than PA activities.
While both PA and PR agencies work with the public, looking at how they approach and engage with people and organizations and the underlying motivations behind such engagements can expose visible cues when differentiating the fields from one another. Yet, there is an essential commonality between Public Affairs and Public Relations professionals: Both aim at creating influence and managing impact within the business world regardless of methodological and motivational differences.
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