The Difference Between Public Relations and Public Affairs

Public relations and public affairs are similar since both of them involve communicating and building relationships with the public.

However, public relations tends to have a commercial focus, while public affairs is a lot more political.

Professionals in public affairs are meant to disseminate information to a company’s stakeholders with the goal of influencing public policy and building support for the agenda of the organization.

Public relations aims to generate positive publicity and media coverage for a company, in order to help them build brand awareness and loyalty and to improve their image.

Public Affairs Professionals

There are various activities that public affairs professionals need to do, including advising, advocating, consulting, lobbying on specific legislation or policies, monitoring information and political activity, and providing stakeholders with information, either through media engagement or directly.

Many companies use public affairs professionals as a way to bridge the gap between the interests of the company and of public policy.

Public affairs professionals should regularly establish contact with government regulators, politicians, and political advisers, and should monitor their policy proceedings.

Public Relations Professionals

Public relations efforts tend to be seen as a part of the marketing efforts that are used to build a positive image for a business by generating media coverage, instead of buying ads.

Some of the activities that PR professionals need to do involve branding, marketing research, crisis management, making press releases, and designing promotional campaigns.

Public relations professionals assess companies, figure out useful or valuable messages and contributions the company can make, and turn those messages into positive marketing stories.

They can use the press, word-of-mouth marketing, and social media to generate more buzz around a business.


 Public affairs and public relations professionals can be found working in different fields and industries, such as for private companies, nonprofits, and government agencies.   The professions require similar activities and skill sets.

Additionally, both professions include engaging with the public and trying to shape the opinion that the public has on a specific topic, and they involve creating and managing public outreach strategies that generate a response and build relationships.

However, that’s where the similarities between public affairs and public relations end.

Public affairs is a very political industry that’s focused on influencing policy. It’s used to help companies build relationships with stakeholders, but there isn’t a commercial objective behind their campaigns, unlike with public relations. 

Public relations is focused on helping businesses from a marketing perspective. With the help of a public relations campaign, companies can generate a positive image for their brand, and generate awareness about their products or services, which increases sales.

Matthew Caiola serves as Co-CEO at 5W Public Relations, managing the overall growth, direction and day-to-day business of the Corporate & Technology Communications Divisions and Digital Marketing.

With more than 17 years of PR experience, Matthew leads teams in launching and building high-growth tech companies, disrupting industries, building global brand resonance through thought leadership, C-Suite profiling, and speakers’ programs, as well as crisis communications across a variety of industries.