Publicist vs. Public Relations Professional
We all hear people use the terms “Publicist” for a “Public Relations Professional” and visa versa. Yet they not understanding that these two professions are quite different. They not only come with different goals and responsibilities, but require different skill sets.
Many of the negative perceptions about public relations actually come from the misunderstandings about these professions. A publicist’s only real goal is publicity and media coverage, they are not concerned with whether it is good or bad. The idea of a publicity stunt is almost exclusively associated with publicists. Publicists want to get covered by as many media outlets as possible, as often as possible. Their only real goal is to get a person or company noticed in whatever way they can. This is exactly where the saying “any news is good news” comes from.
Public Relations professionals care much more about their client’s image. While media coverage is still important, what’s much more important is getting positive media coverage. PR people do their best to keep the image positive, but must do damage control if the image becomes negative. PR rarely comes with “publicity stunts” because they can so often go wrong and turn a good image bad.
Crisis management is one aspect of public relations that is not found in publicity. When a crisis happens, public relations professionals step in to fix the problem and help a client turn a negative circumstance into the most positive possible light. To use a real-life example, when the BP oil spill happened they used crisis management tactics and started moving their efforts towards the clean up and not the spill itself. A publicist might have just let the bad image stay because at least people were hearing the name “BP Oil.”
The point is, while many people confuse the two terms, if you are planning to work in the field, you need to understand the difference and make sure you give your clients what they need. Publicity can be an aspect of public relations, but it should not be the only goal. If your client needs publicity, if they need to get their name out there, make sure you are giving them the kind of publicity that will keep their image good.