Publicity can make or break a company. Whether illegal dumping is discovered and sent out through the media or a business sponsors medical care for a child cancer patient, publicity drives the way the public reacts. The two main vehicles for such publicity are press and media relations. The main difference is who controls the spin.
The first amendment of the United States Constitution promises freedom of the press. This means that no government entity has the right to censor what is printed. Events and issues will be reported on. It is supposed to be done without bias, however, because the stories are written by humans, there is a perceived overall slant to every publication. Most press stories are not endorsements of companies or people. For example, if the Electric Doughnut Shop began offering a new style of doughnut, it would not warrant a news story as it could be perceived as an editorial endorsement of the product. If, however, the new style of doughnut, had ingredients that were later discovered to cause cancer, that would prompt a news story for the purpose of allowing the public to have enough information to make an informed choice about doughnuts.
Press stories are driven by news or human interest events. In most cases, the companies, events or people being written about have no control over the outcome of the articles. They may grant interviews to reporters to be able to tell their story, but, in the end, the reporter gathering the information puts it together without further input from the story’s subject. Stories that are press generated typically appear on the front page as well as throughout the inside of the publication.
Media relations, often referred to as public relations, is generally driven by the companies, events or people that want the coverage. For example, Sally real estate agent places in the top 10 sales agents in America this year. The company she works for knows it looks good for having such a successful Realtor on its roster. This is the type of thing companies want to appear in publications. While press is driven by reporters seeking information, media/public relations is driven by publicity seekers looking for coverage.
Where It Lands
Media relations almost never gets published on a front page. To do so would give the impression it was a press story, sought out by the publication and written by a reporter. Instead, media releases are often used as filler on the inside. As the publication is being laid out, with ads and news stories, there are areas on the pages that have nothing in them. Media releases typically go into such spots. Most publications have limited space for media releases and have to choose the few among many that will fit the space. A release announcing the addition of a new bank teller, for example, may never make it into print, depending on the space and the interest the release will provide to the publication’s readership.
Due to the nature of both information avenues, the relationships in each field are different. Reporters maintain a professional distance from those they will refer to frequently in news stories. Politicians, CEO’s and others who have an influence on the pulse of the readership are held at arm’s length, so the reporter can remain objective in covering events involving those entities. Media relation employees are expected to seek out and develop relationships with publication representatives. This is so media releases sent by them might have a better chance of being chosen for publication due to the recognition of the sender.