PR is reputation management, not events management


This is an article by Katerina Hejralova.
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First year students are often confused about the distinction between Public Relations and Events Management.

I have studied both subjects as a joint degree at university and I can say that there are certain similarities but many differences too.

One thing that needs to be made clear straight in the beginning is the fact that:

Public Relations is not Events Management and vice versa

PR is reputation management. As a PR pro you look after your clients’ reputation and focus on establishing communication channels between them and their key stakeholders.

Events Management on the other hand is in its nature a project management that aims to create great events, festivals, music gigs and conferences. You employ all your creativity and imagination to put on amazing events that everybody will want to go to and that everybody will remember forever. Yes, there is a need for marketing and PR, but it is not the essential aspect of the job.

Let’s have a look at some of the similarities and differences.

Similarities

Project management – both professions require accurate project management skills. You have to plan ahead in a great detail, undertake a wide research, create SMART objectives, schedules and deadlines and also think of ongoing measurement and post evaluation.

Creativity – there is a need for a creative edge. For your events and PR campaigns to be successful, you have to think ‘out-of-the-box’.

Stakeholder management – there are different stakeholders for a PR professional and Event Manager yet they all have to be looked after and kept satisfied.

Client relations – the client is the person who pays your wages so you have to keep them in the loop as often as possible.

Trade relations – monitoring the progress of the industry and your competitors is a key to success. You don’t want to miss out on the latest technology developments and new campaigns/events ideas. Your goal is to be seen as a key player and therefore, you also look after your company’s reputation.

Responsibility – there is a huge responsibility that comes with both of these professions. Any little mistake in PR can echo back with enormous consequences. Any gap in project management can result in people getting upset or even in more serious consequences such as injuries and death.

In-house & External Consultancy – PR and Events can be run from within the compan, in-house. But there are also external consultancies that plan and execute events and campaigns on behalf of a client or work in partnership with the in-house team.

Differences

PR campaigns are about ongoing engagement with the target audience over a period of time. There is a need for tactical thinking and planning so all the aspects of the campaign are in synergy. Events Managers do all the hard work ahead of an event and when the show is over it is over. Their hard work is ‘hidden’ and will get questioned only if something goes wrong.

PR acts ‘below the line’. The audience doesn’t know that the particular story they are reading in the papers is a result of Public Relations activity. Event goers know that somebody had to organise all of this for them.

Studying PR doesn’t make you qualified to work in Events Management and vice versa. For this reason, I decided to study a joint degree of Public Relations and Events Management at university. Both professions are interlinked. The PR practitioner has to know how to plan an event or a PR stunt and an Events Manager has to know how to “PR” the event so it gets coverage in the media.

Personally, I wanted to keep my options as open as possible in terms of my final career choice. I thought I could work as an Event Manager or as a PR pro one day. Additionally, the more skills you have the more money you can earn one day.

And here I am now, a recent graduate with a degree in Events Management and Public Relations, ready to start my professional life. I have chosen to pursue a career in PR and started working as an Account Executive in a PR consultancy.

I decided on PR over Events Management because for me there is just simply more on offer. You get to plan campaigns including PR stunts and events and you use different communication channels to engage with your target audience.

Katerina Hejralova
Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/Kat4PR
Blog: kat4pr.blogspot.com/
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Comments

  1. Interesting article: I think there’s a distinction as you suggest between PR-for-events and events-for-PR. American critic Daniel Boorstin was long ago very critical of what he described as ‘pseudo-events’ (events designed solely to create publicity) – though I don’t think people are shocked about this any more.

  2. I think you’ve missed the fact that when you work in PR you frequently have to organise and manage events in order to facilitate two-way face-to-face communicatation.

    In my experience of working in PR and Marketing (both agency-side and in senior in-house roles) events have been a significant and important part of my role.

  3. Thank you for your comments.

    Yes Richard, nobody is really shocked about seeing ‘pseudo-events’ anymore. These little publicity stunts happen all the time and people love them…and the media love them too.

    And yes Pink Zebra PR, events do appear on your itinerary time after time. I don’t think they are a significant part of public relations practice though. PR pros usually focus on building relationship with the media (journalists, writers, reporters, commentators, etc.) and selling-in their stories.

  4. I disagree. I think organising events IS a significant part of public relations practice for many PR professionals. PR = communications, not just media relations.

  5. Richard, I agree with you. There is definitely a line between PR-for-events and events-for-PR. I’ve already encountered both in my early career.

    As Katerina pointed out, many events management skills are applicable to both. While PR and events management sometimes bleed together, they are certainly separate professional entities.

    My question is, what do you think has young university students confused?

  6. Sara: Good question, but it’s not for me to answer. I’ll see a new PR student’s perspective on this.

  7. Oteng Majuta (Inck! PR) says:

    The discussion around events for PR and PR for events is quite interesting. Obviously with PR for events you looking at creating the hype amongst the target auidence by interviews in the media and getting information out on the event to ensure that the people you want at the event attend and understand why the event is being held.

    Now with events for PR you looking at using an event as a tactic for pushing a PR message, say for example if you want to launch a new service for an airline flying to an exotic destination with beaches – you could possibly use models in bikins serving drinks and the likes at the event.

    But in both cases the PR role is to understand the objectives of the event and ensure that they are communicated accordingly and are in line with the brand. It is not our role as PR people to plan and make sure that the event goes well – our role I believe is to ensure that our target audiances get the message that the event is communicating. We are there to guard the reputation of the brands.

    Unfortunately a lot of organizations would rather than hiring an event manager shift the responsibility to the PR and Marketing people and it would now seem that managing events is part of our responsibilities. You will also notice that some PR agencies have events departments to run the event. PR people are part of the process but the event is not their responsibility.

  8. Oteng Majuta (Inck! PR) says:

    I think what confuses them are the similarities and the pushing of eventing work to PR practitioners. It is then easy to assume that event mangers can do PR and vice versa

  9. Katie Stambek says:

    Great article, and following discussion. I am a current PR student, one the elective courses offered is event management. Public relations majors should have knowledge of campaign building as well as event facilitation. Although I don’t have career experience, I do know I prefer knowing how to manage an events. To achieve the objective of sending a message in line with the brand, there should a substantial amount of involvement on the PR end.

  10. Immensely valuable discussion regarding pr and event mgt.

  11. I was recently offered a job as PR at Event management Company. First I didn’t get it. Because a PR is supposed to utilize all media channels to maintain a Brand’s Image. where as here I was asked to manage some music events, engage in promotional activities and meet with clients. I am a little bit confused as I am interested in making career as PR officer but I don’t whether this is the right job to start with. It seems to me more like an Event Management job.

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