What’s The Difference Between Public Relations (PR) and Strategic Communications?

The difference between public relations and strategic communications is more than semantics! Understanding these differences can help you decide what type of communications professional you need to hire, based on your company’s specific needs. Here are a two key differences you should be aware of between public relations and strategic communications:

  1. A Broad Field vs. A Narrow Focus

While all squares are rectangles, not all rectangles are squares. And the same principle applies for the difference between public relations and strategic communications. While all PR roles involve communications, not all communications roles involve PR. In short, this means public relations is a much more specific field than strategic communications. Let’s take a deeper look:

The Focus Of Public Relations

A public relations firm is mainly concerned with the public’s perception of a company. For example, a news agency picking up a story that makes a company look favorable in the public eye would be deemed “good PR.” Many public relations firms focus on boosting a company’s public perception with a strong social media presence, press conferences, press releases, and more.

The Purpose Of Strategic Communications

By contrast, strategic communications is a broad field. There are quite a few more elements that need to be taken into account to have “good strategic communications” than what a public relations firm considers “good PR.” Strategic communications experts work with companies not only to increase positive public perception but also to bring in new customers, forge stronger relationships with current customers, boost return on investment (ROI), distribute company messages internally as well as externally, and more. In short, strategic communications is a bit of a mix of education, PR, and marketing strategies!

2. A Science vs. An Art

Public relations can be quite the art form. Public relations firms craft messages to persuade the public to support companies and recognize their accomplishments. You may have heard someone refer to a company scandal becoming public knowledge as a “PR nightmare” because often, it lies in the hands of a public relations expert or public relations firm to mitigate any damage to the company’s reputation and find the positive in even the most negative situations.

On the other hand, a key difference between public relations and strategic communications is that strategic communications focuses more on the long-term than just mitigating a specific situation. Strategic communications involves crunching the numbers and seeing which communication strategies are working best for your company over time. Did that blog post drive you to the top of Google search results? Did that last social media post result in a high ROI? How many views did that Youtube explainer video of your product receive? Data like this is helpful for companies looking to scale their business, reach new customers, and keep current clients happy in the long-term.

Should I Hire a PR Professional or a Strategic Communications Expert?

Whether to hire a public relations firm or a strategic communications expert or firm comes down to your company’s needs. Understanding the difference between public relations and strategic communications can help you make this decision. For example, now you know that if your company is struggling with public perception, a public relations firm or PR professional is the best way to go. If your needs are more broad and you are looking to increase sales, reach more potential clients, and to position your company as the expert in a field— you will want to work with a strategic communications expert.

How Much Do PR and Strategic Communications Consultants Cost?

Strategic communications and public relations professionals often both charge by the project or by the word. However, some PR professionals can also work on a monthly retainer, meaning you pay them a flat fee a month and only use them when you need them. This can be incredibly useful in industries that require “crisis communications” services.

The difference between public relations and strategic communications cost is less about the type of company you hire, and more about the experience of the firm and individuals offering services. For written communications services it is common for consultants to charge by the word (for example, anywhere between 10 cents and $1 per word).

For a free consultation and quote for your communications needs, make an appointment with 406 Strategic Communications.