Is Public Affairs the Same as Public Relations?

Is Public Affairs the Same as Public Relations?

With the terms public affairs and public relations often stacked under the umbrella of “communications”, there can be confusion when distinguishing between the two. Both are built on the same foundation—credibility and trust, fostering connections with the public and nurturing personal relationships. Leveraging this trust is powerful and important for successful communication outcomes for both because it will translate into loyalty that’s necessary when courting public opinion or seeking credibility for a product or service. Public affairs and public relations also strive for similar results and use traditional methods of communication, as well as digital marketing strategies and social media, to convey messages and reach the public.


So how do we differentiate between the two?


Simply put, public affairs is more political in nature. Public affairs practitioners disseminate information to stakeholders with the goal of influencing public policy and establishing support for an organization’s agenda. Conversely, public relations creates awareness and positive publicity in order to improve or promote an organization’s image or help build public loyalty. Below, we break down each term so you know when to seek out communication solutions related to public affairs or public relations.


Public Affairs

Public affairs practitioners are primarily focused on influencing policy on behalf of organizations and focus on an organization’s relationship with stakeholders. These are individuals or groups with an interest in the organization’s affairs. These can include politicians, citizens, communities, unions, trade associations, think tanks, business groups or charitable organizations. With an emphasis on matters that affect the public-at-large directly, public affairs specialists typically work with nonprofits, government agencies and community affairs organizations. Through strategic communication planning, they educate the public and aim to find common ground while building support for an organization’s agenda (typically affected by legislation). Public affairs practitioners create solid, reputable campaigns that shape public opinion through many means, including community relations, media relations and crisis management.


Public Relations

Public relations practitioners focus on helping companies grow from a marketing perspective with an emphasis on the company’s connection to the public. More specifically, these specialists are often the bridge between the public and an organization or company, working to build a positive image of that business. Public relations campaigns work to improve the relationship between a business and an individual and the product or service that business has to offer. The goal of a public relations campaign is to generate a positive view of the company to the public and to promote and display its product or service in a favorable light. While working in the business sector, public relations specialists help clients reach their goals and target a specific audience using strategic communication objectives.

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