The best, though somewhat misleading way to describe the difference between public relations and publicity is that publicity is designed to keep you in the news and public relations is designed to keep you out. Celebrities often have a publicist whose job it is to keep them in the headlines; often for celebrities, any publicity is good publicity. However, large corporations often have much larger PR divisions as opposed to publicity divisions. AT&T and GE often spend much more money keeping themselves out of the news than purposefully getting themselves in. This is because for large corporations with shareholders and their fair share of lawsuits on their hands, publicity can often mean trouble. They like to control the medium, which is the purpose of advertising.
However, for smaller businesses, publicity is much more useful than public relations because the small business is focused on getting exposure while keeping costs down. Large multi-national corporations can afford huge amounts of advertising, but your business may be promoting itself by using a small advertising budget in certain trade journals, local papers and radio stations. Because of this, publicity can serve your business the best and keep costs low. By focusing on getting new customers through publicity, you will be able to save money while improving your company’s reputation.
So, to summarize, large businesses may want to stay out of the news in most cases, but your businesses may want all the publicity it can get!
Bryan Thompson is a young entrepreneur and President of PR Writing Online. In his experience as a freelance publicist, writer and entrepreneur, he has worked with dozens of small, mid-size and large companies. He is currently writing a book on using the internet to generate free publicity for small and mid-sized businesses. You may contact him at http://www.prwriting.net.