A Guide to the Different Types of PR

When it comes to companies and corporations, everyone has an opinion – customers, shareholders, the media, the government and the general public. There are dozens of viewpoints, and almost as many types of PR. Each type has a purpose, and each one suits a different type of professional. Here are some examples to get you started.

We’ll look at:

  • media relations
  • community relations
  • corporate and social responsibility
  • public affairs
  • crisis management
  • social media
  • employee relations
  • integrated marketing and communications

Media relations 

Media relations is all about dealing with the media – writing press releases, scheduling interviews and giving press conferences. The goal is to generate positive coverage of your company or your product. Basically, you want the media to do your advertising for free.

Key to media relations is generating a ‘hook’ to draw in audiences. You need to have an eye for a compelling story that the media will want to cover. You also need to have the skills to get the story out there, which can vary depending on the role. Copywriters produce snappy, well-written press releases, while company spokespeople stand up and give speeches to the press. In smaller organisations, one person is responsible for everything.

Some stories can be planned in advance. Others must be written at a moment’s notice. Media relations people need to be excellent forward planners and also very flexible.

Community relations 

Community engagement officers work to develop a company’s relationship with the local (and not-so-local) community. 

Reasons for doing this include:

  • getting local support for a project, such a building a new manufacturing plant
  • ‘giving something back’, which improves the company’s ethical reputation
  • getting people interested in your products or services
  • changing people’s mindset about an issue

To be a community engagement officer you need to understand how people in the community think and act, and how best to engage with them – whether by running events, visiting schools or writing newsletters. You need to be organised, intuitive, enthusiastic and strategic.

Corporate and social responsibility

Related to community engagement, there is PR that improves the company’s reputation for ethics, environmental responsibility, and community and charity works. This area of PR can hugely affect an organisation’s business practices. A CSR PR officer might recommend the company to change its entire recycling policy, or even its business direction.

To be a good CSR officer you need the ear of the company leaders – which takes networking skills, people skills, persuasion and the ability to endear yourself to your colleagues.

Public affairs

Public affairs, also known as lobbying, is all about getting the government on your side. Say you wanted a change in farming legislation so you could sell your product for more money. You’d need to make contact with a minister, convince them of your case, and provide them with information so they can talk confidently about your issue and fight your corner.

Public affairs professionals work to make contacts within government and other organisations. They’re personable, tenacious, and occasionally sneaky. 

Crisis management

Crisis management is the PR you need when disaster strikes: a faulty product has to be recalled, an oil tanker spills, an employee accuses the company of wrongdoing, or the CEO is arrested for public indecency. These things could ruin the company’s reputation and need to be dealt with quickly.

Crisis managers are quick thinkers who know how to spin an issue. They can manage teams and delegate tasks. They understand every media channel so they can tell which problems need a press conference and which can be solved with a single tweet.

Crisis management is great for confident people who thrive on adrenaline.

Social media

Many companies use social media campaigns as a form of marketing, but social media also has huge PR potential. Some of a company’s greatest PR successes (and disasters) can happen on social media. It’s a place where your interactions with a single customer are visible to the whole world. It allows companies to show their lighter side – for example, two fast food chains exchanging friendly Twitter insults. It’s also a good place for honest public apologies.

To be a good social media professional you need to be tech-savvy and intuitive and have a great sense of humour.

Employee relations

Also known as internal PR, employee relations is the business of giving employees a positive view of the company they work for. The goal is to keep them satisfied, motivated and loyal.

Employee relations work might include:

  • organising employee events
  • creating internal newsletters and other communications
  • resolving disputes
  • liaising with unions
  • helping line managers develop good relationships with their team

This is perhaps the most sensitive form of PR, as it’s based less on image and more on action. For example, in resolving disputes you can only offer as much as the higher-ups in the company will let you – and it’s very difficult to put a positive spin on the word ‘no’.

Employee relations professionals have to be excellent negotiators, understanding, perceptive and tenacious.

And finally… integrated marketing and communications

Integrated marketing and communications (IMC) isn’t exactly a form of public relations – it’s a way to take all your activities, from advertising to media relations to internal communications, and ensure that you provide a consistent message that serves your overall strategy.

To be a successful IMC professional you need to be great at dealing with people so you can get all the different arms of your communications working together. You also need to be interested in all areas of communication so you enjoy doing a little bit of everything.

Next: The Skills You Need for Marketing & PR