public relations and communications differences

Why PR needs higher governance and ethical standards

Public relations standards are a science, ruled by governance ethics. It has its own strategic pillars, and it is one of the most crucial aspects in any governmental planning when it comes to public affairs or the private sector in terms of public relations. To an extent, it can change any business planning if the communication practitioner is heavily involved in the corporate strategy.

If we consider that public relations can also be measured as a communication tool, it can also be converted to an integrated tool to strategically communicate visions and missions. Speaking integration, public relations can easily perform public diplomacy, political communications and public affairs, depending on the strategy nature or the industry itself.

But in reality, this is not the case. In today’s understanding that media experience can replace the full communication strategic aspects. However, media is a reactive aspect only, and communications is a proactive discipline. 

Communications or public relations strategists can build a strategy, and the media will follow through media relations and publishing.

Beyond media relations

Public relations is the art of social science in analysing trends, predicting their consequences, counselling organisation leaders, and implementing planned programs of action which will serve both the organisation and public interest.

Unfortunately, businesses today consider that the most relevant candidate to be a communication executive who has a media background only. 

Most companies depend on media relations to promote information about a brand, which is not the case. This way of working resumes the process with less than 80% of the whole planning. However, strategic public relations encompass many processes to formulate a brand’s story and build a positive image for public audiences before reaching the media relations stage. 

Strategic investments

Strategic public relations and media are two characteristics of business’s approaches to promote its offerings and brand positioning. While both would overlap in several ways, there are numerous key differences between them. 

Businesses may have detailed public relations strategies that tackle multiple objectives to reach specific audiences, while media relations may make up only a small part of an overall public relations campaign. 

Media experts who are working as communications practitioners focus on delivering news and events to editors, reporters, journalists and other professionals who work for newspapers and other outlets. But public relations can have many advantages for businesses that implement successful PR strategies. For example, successful PR campaigns are beneficial for attracting new audiences and creating trust in a brand. 

Value propositions

It will also publicise value propositions, generate potential leads, build a positive brand image, boost credibility and create strong relationships. Stressing on that, who only has media experience cannot fulfil what businesses require. It needs more than that to achieve through public relations and communications.

Public relations is a management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organisation with the public interest and plans and executes a program to earn public understanding and acceptance. And consists of all forms of communication outwards and inwards between an organisation and its publics for the purpose of achieving specific objectives concerning mutual understanding.

The virtuous governance entails a comprehensive public space based on informed discourse and engagement, a confident connection between communication and governance seems credible, and the advantage of communication is most evident when good governance exists.


Communications practitioners should recognize the challenges in categorising and using sound experiential data. These include complications in enumerating communication inputs and governance outputs, in attributing impact, and in identifying and measuring the impact of communication programs subsumed in wider governance activities.

Before issuing a press release or posting a social media message, a strategy should be in place. A strategy that is based on stakeholders mapping and narrative story and key messaging platforms. Not to forget a crisis preparedness media scenario based on identified expected issues as plan B. 

Unfortunately, most of what we experience today is media relations requests and quantified plans for publishing, which proves that the lack in communication governance does not exist.


Based on the outcomes of such strategy, from strategic thinking to the approach of communications, public and private organisations can assume tactical communications models that are based on the employment of tactics, depends on the overall business objectives and stakeholders’ presence, not only social media or issuing press releases, to communicate on a subject without this activity being intended to serve a purpose beyond widening the reach of a piece of information at that given time. 

This will drive the execution of a policy or the uptake of public service, in a constant way. It typically involves a desired change in behaviour or perceptions from specific stakeholders.

Governing the industry is a must. The role of communications in good governance include:

  • Working in communication and public relations must have policies and procedures when it comes to hiring. Designated persons should be certified in communications and PR. Not having only media experience.
  • Public affairs practitioners should be highly qualified to communicate governmental policies. Public affairs is not only government relations.
  • Fitting communications strategies based on business objectives and organisation stakeholders. This applies to any type of organisation.

Beyond communications and press releases, sophisticated strategic communications model requires insights-driven planning and internal coordination behind the implementation of tactics. This is often delivered through a well-resourced office in which leadership sits at the decision-making levels of the organisation.

Mohamed Ghozeil has 25 years of leadership experience in marketing and communications. He began his career in advertising, working for Saatchi & Saatchi in 1996 where he managed the Saudi American Bank account and P&G. In 2000, he joined Ogilvy and Mather to launch American Express in Saudi Arabia. He successfully managed crisis issues that arose during the launch of AmEx Saudi Arabia in relation to the US involvement in the Iraq war.