media update’s Nakedi Phala discusses the main differences between PR and PA and which one is a winner. 

PR and PA have various similarities as the two include communicating through media channels as well as building and preserving relationships with the public at large.

The main difference is that PA is more political and its objectives are directly linked to the public, while PR is more concerned about the business’s relationship with the public.

In essence, PA officers are typically responsible for maintaining strong community relations and keeping in touch with other government departments or agencies. The PA department is usually led by the PA manager, who is in charge of budgeting, planning and execution of the programmes.

While most companies struggle to decide on whether PR or PA works better, it is important to pick one that is suitable for the size of your company, the most reliable and that will have a good impact on your business or organisation. 

The pros of using PR 

1. PR has an impact

PR has the power to influence the public and, in return, this can improve the organisation’s reputation. Using news outlets to share your content and press releases can reach a bigger audience. 

For example, people are more likely to be convinced by government content published by an independent media house as opposed to their Government Communication Information System’s press statements.

In this regard, audiences are more convinced by independency and unbiased sources. Essentially, PR is one of the most credible forms of promotion and is the most persuasive.

 2. Better reach

A well-written press release or story has the potential to be picked up by a number of news publishers. Using PR techniques, you are able to persuade media houses to publish content about your company or organisation.

To get a satisfactory reach, you need to conduct some research about the publications your audience consumes and the journalists who write content for these news outlets.

Remember to pitch content that is newsworthy. For example, if you are a government department, like the Department of Higher Education, it is expected that you’d give out bursaries for students who are starting their first years at universities.

But what would make the whole scenario newsworthy or worthwhile for your department: who are the funders? Are there potential employers to hire these students once they graduate? How will the programme work? Which universities will run along with the programme? When will it commence? 

If you can answer these questions, your chances of being published are high and you are more likely to reach a bigger audience. 

3. Speaking at events

Industry events have great opportunities for PR, as your company can score potential clients and build new relationships.
Whether you have an internal  PR department or have one on speed dial, sometimes you have to get involved in speaking, debating or defending your business; doing this enables you to build a credible profile for your organisation. 

At conferences, events and during interviews a good PR tactic would be to educate your audience by explaining the prospects of your organisation (its objectives and goals) in a manner that would resonate with potential leads. 

The purpose of public affairs

1. To develop and build relationships 

PA plays a similar role to PR, but its main function is concerned with helping organisations interact with the government, lawmakers, societies and the media at large. The communication model is to engage stakeholders in order to explain organisational policies and views on public matters.

2. To persuade legislators

PA specialists act as lobbyists in order to persuade legislators to support a particular business or cause. The act of lobbying advocates with the purpose to influence legislation. 

This can be done by requesting a prominent individual to support a specific bill about social issues. A popular organisation that uses PA  is OUTA, which describes its objectives as “taking action against wasteful and corrupt expenditure or receipt of state revenue and where possible, holding those personally responsible to account for their conduct and actions”. 

Another subdivision of lobbying is advocacy, which is more concerned with promoting a cause by spreading messages that are biased towards a particular policy or initiative without acquiring the services of an elected or prominent individual, or the use of a bill or legislation. 

3. To act as opinion leaders 

Opinion leaders play a critical role in PA These are usually prominent individuals, such as journalists, academics, politicians, business leaders and community leaders who have the capacity to influence public opinion on a policy or piece of legislation. 

Opinion leaders have the power to influence and divert or change policies; they are knowledgeable and respected in their field with perspectives that carry notability into communities. What opinion leaders discuss or feel strongly about has the power to shape opinions on various subject matters. 

PR plays an important role in business and government, while PA is vital for dealing with matters that concern the public directly, public administration as well as policies that affect communities and societies at large. 

Do you think public affairs should be absorbed into public relations in order to minimise confusion between the two?  Let us know in the comments section below. 

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Now that you’ve acquired some knowledge on the differences between PR and PA. Check out this article on How PR pros can build a trusting relationship with journalists.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy