Publicity and public relations are two terms that are frequently considered as the same thing. However, it is important to correct this as they are two distinct fields. In general, publicity is one of the aspects of public relations, which comprises of many other elements. This is similar to how advertising is just one aspect of marketing.

Publicity is related to creating awareness regarding a product, brand or company amongst the general public. On the other hand, public relations is a much broader field that consists of various strategies that are used by organizations to achieve its objectives by circulating messages to relevant audiences. Further details about the two concepts will be presented subsequently.

Definitions and explanations


Publicity refers to the way information is presented to the public, largely through the media, such as through news items, event coverage, stories, interviews, blogs, etc. with the objective of making people aware about the product, brand, or the company offering these, in addition to increasing its credibility.

The objective of a publicity campaign is to present information or news to as many people as possible in a given time period. It is a non-paid type of communication, and hence, it can be negative or positive, depending on how the media wishes to present news or events. The company about which information or news is being circulated has no control over what is being circulated about it. It may be a review on a latest product launched by a company, such as a television, mobile phone, smart watch, or it may be an experience shared by a customer who has used the product.

Hence, in short, publicity basically concentrates on gaining significant visibility among the general public, for which it requires as much coverage in the media as possible.

Public relations

Public relations (PR) refers to a strategic process carried out to manage relationships and communication, with the objective of developing goodwill and shared understanding between an organization and its public. In this regard, public refers to those groups or individuals that are interested in or have an impact on the ability of the company to accomplish its objectives.

The objective of PR activities is not only to gain the attention of the public, but also to attain organizational objectives by communicating their message to the desired audience. PR activities are carried out to ensure that the public views the company in a positive light, and that strong relationships are established with the public. In this regard, public refers to all those stakeholders who are affected in some way by the organizational activities, including employees, investors, customers, suppliers and partners. Public relations includes the following activities: crisis management, reputation management, event management, press releases, social media, public service announcements and media advisories.

In many companies, a public relations department is set up that monitors the way the public behaves and communicates with them with the goal of improving their image and enhancing their good will. The PR department has different functions, such as corporate communications, press relations, product publicity, etc. A PR department is responsible for responding to any negative reviews, comments or news that surfaces in the media about it so as to clear its image and ensure that the public continues to have positive perceptions about the company.

Difference between publicity and public relations

The main difference between publicity and public relations is explained below:

1. Meaning

Publicity refers to gaining visibility in the eyes of the public. This is done by circulating information or news update in the media with the objective of creating awareness and developing credibility among the public. On the other hand, public relations is a strategic process undertaken with the goal of developing a good image and reputation of the company in the market.

2. Objective

Publicity aims to draw the attention of the media so that they provide information or updates about a product, service, brand, company, etc. to the general public. The purpose of this is to create awareness among the public. The objective of public relations, on the other hand, is to draw attention of the target market so as to increase the sales of the company.

3. Nature

Since publicity is not in control of the company, it may not always be positive. For example, a customer may provide a positive or negative review of the product or service of the company, depending on their experience. Similarly, it may be a scandal that has surfaced regarding the company. On the other hand, public relations is always positive as it is a strategic activity and is handled by the public relations department of the company.

4. Type of communication

A company does not make any payments to the media to gather publicity; it is free of cost. On the other hand, to carry out public relations, a company has to pay for the different events it may have to arrange or sponsor, as well as the various third-party endorsements it would be making as part of its PR campaign,

5. Carried out by

A company has no control over publicity, which is carried out by the media on its own. On the other hand, a company is the one that manages its public relations campaigns, and is hence, in full control of it.

Publicity vs public relations – tabular comparison

A tabular comparison of publicity and public relations is given below:

Publicity vs Public relations
Presenting information or news to the public to increase awareness Managing the image of the company in the eyes of the public
Create awareness Increase sales
Positive or negative Always positive
Type of communication
Unpaid Paid
Carried out by
Media Company

Conclusion – publicity vs public relations

To sum it up, it is evident now that publicity and public relations are not the same thing. Both of these are important for organizations to put across their message to the public. However, PR has a more comprehensive role in that it ensures that the company’s image remains positive. It is responsible for dealing with any negative publicity that has emerged. Furthermore, it ensures that the company maintains good ties with all of the relevant public, such as the government, customers, suppliers, shareholders, etc.