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The Differences Between Public Affairs and Public Relations

A person giving a speech

Building positive relationships with the public is a foundational component of a career in public affairs or public relations. While they may appear similar because they involve working toward the same result, they're both distinct roles that can appeal to different job seekers according to their professional goals, interests, and strengths.

A Closer Look at the Similarities

Students interested in pursuing roles driven by public interaction can find success working in public relations or public affairs. In both settings, professionals focus on developing partnerships built on trust and loyalty with the public while planning, creating, executing, and evaluating campaign strategies related to their overall goals. The same channels are frequently used to deliver messages to the intended audience: a policy development officer may contribute to an ongoing campaign by managing digital advertisements promoting an event featuring a legislator, whereas a public relations manager may be responsible for tracking the performance of social media ads highlighting the environmental benefits of a business's new product.

The Key Differences Between Public Relations and Public Affairs

Though the traits of a strong candidate for a PR or public affairs role may include some of the same elements, such as advanced research skills, critical thinking, and adaptability, there are still fundamental differences between each field. Public relations professionals typically work to establish or nurture relationships with the public for the purpose of a commercial goal, such as promoting a business's products, services, or image.

In the world of public affairs, the goal is more political in nature and targets aspects of public life, such as the development of a new public park, setting up new traffic lights, or enacting new leash laws.

Day-to-Day Job Responsibilities

In some cases, the core job responsibilities for each role can overlap; however, the following responsibilities tend to be specific to public relations positions:

  • Drafting and delivering press releases to news outlets
  • Writing speeches
  • Crisis response and management
  • Branding campaigns

To help government entities maintain positive relationships with their stakeholders, aspiring public affairs professionals can expect to:

  • Communicate regularly with politicians, political advisors, and government regulators
  • Monitor policy proceedings
  • Promote events related to their employer's political goals

Separate Degrees for Two Unique Career Paths

Discover your passion and build on your current professional skills by learning more about the Tulane School of Professional Advancement's Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Master of Public Administration programs. Our admissions advisors, faculty, and staff are committed to supporting working adults who are looking to expand their career options. Start your application today to take the first step toward your future as a public relations or public administration professional.

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