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PR vs. Reputation Management: What’s the Difference?

PR vs. Reputation Management: Key Differences

Our guide to PR vs. reputation management below is designed to help you make intelligent decisions about your digital marketing strategy.

In the field of digital marketing, confusion between online reputation management (ORM) and public relations (PR) exists. While these two practices may seem similar at first glance, there are significant differences in terms of their purpose, tools, and strategies.

Which service is right for your business needs? Can these services work alone to build a robust online presence, or is there an advantage to combining both strategies?

In our guide below, we will provide all the details you need to understand the key differences between public relations and online reputation management. We’ll also share tips for choosing the best PR firm for your needs and goals.

Contact our ORM professionals today to learn more about public relations and reputation management services

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How Does Digital Content Influence Public Perceptions?

In today’s connected digital age, people use web resources like search engines to learn about the world around them. Internet users rely on search engines like Google and third-party information resources like review sites, news media outlets, and social platforms. When researching a business or person, search results play a significant role in shaping public perceptions and the associated online reputation of that business or person:

Positive Content

Positive content puts you or your business in a favorable light. This content can include positive online reviews, positive press releases, glowing news articles, and so much more. With content like this, you are well on your way to a great online reputation.

Negative Content

Whether its a natural or industrial disaster, an employee scandal, or a corporate misadventure, negative content found in search results can have a devastating effect on your digital reputation.

One single piece of negative press — a bad review, an embarrassing news article, a mugshot or arrest record of one of your key executives — can undo years of your hard work. If you want to keep an intact public perception, it is essential that you take control of the digital narrative. That’s the primary role of public relations.

What is Public Relations (PR)?

What are public relations? The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) describes the primary purpose of public relations as: “influencing, engaging and building relationships with key stakeholders across numerous platforms to shape and frame the public perception of an organization.”

In other words, public relations services are about cultivating relationships with the brand’s primary target audience and leveraging those connections to raise awareness, build or maintain a positive image, and generate goodwill. In simple terms, PR is brand marketing, helping to put your brand in front of the people who matter most: your customers.

PR efforts can be proactive and reactive, though they are built on the client’s unique relationship with the public. They’re also an essential tool for managing crises and protecting brand integrity in an emergency; this aspect is increasingly important in the digital age when a scandal or corporate misstep can spread like wildfire on social media.

While careful planning and crisis management are vital parts of any public relations strategy, PR is largely about interfacing and building mutually beneficial relationships directly with the public.

PR is Brand Marketing

Key Components of PR Campaigns

Traditional PR focused on advertising channels like TV commercials, radio ads, and print advertisements in promotional campaigns. Today’s PR landscape is quite different; digital marketing channels like social media profiles, web properties, and online banner ads have necessitated dramatic shifts in PR principles and practices.

Public relations agencies offer a wide range of services. Here is a look at some of the most critical services for business owners and individuals:

Brand Image Evaluation

PR campaigns begin with a detailed analysis of your brand image, prospective customers, industry competitors, and search results. This analysis is conducted to understand your brand’s strengths and weaknesses and to inform the direction of the PR campaigns.

PR analysts evaluate other brands to determine what works, what doesn’t, and how to differentiate your campaign from your competitors. This critical tool unlocks new opportunities as you embark on your public relations journey.

Internal Communications

Off-brand statements can spell disaster, especially in the online environment. Developing a strategic communication process that focuses on your staff and leaders helps to prevent unapproved statements from seeing the light of day.


Branding is a critical component of any public relations campaign. Your brand tells others who you are, what you represent, and what values you contribute. With branding and rebranding, PR firms work to build a robust web presence that is visible, trustworthy, and responsive to customer needs.

Press Releases

More than just news items highlighting company accomplishments, press releases serve as a vehicle for sharing your company’s story with others. From product spotlights to brand updates, company milestones, and more, press releases ensure maximum coverage among media personalities and journalists.

A single press release can be shared with news outlets as well as social media accounts and other web properties. This simple instrument has the power to shape public perceptions and remains a valuable tool in modern public relations campaigns.

Content Marketing

Public relations firms use a combination of owned promotion, earned promotion, and paid promotion to market digital content across platforms, including social media, third-party sites, and industry news outlets. A press release can be shopped to media, giving it the traction needed to stand out in online searches. Content creation marketing is designed to promote goodwill between a client’s brand and its audiences.

SEO tactics are typically incorporated into content marketing campaigns. This strategy helps search engines like Google accurately categorize and index the content, ensuring great visibility in search results.

Media Relations

Press conferences are a hallmark of media relations. In a typical press conference, a company spokesperson or brand advocates share important news with media personalities. This form of media outreach can erase the reputational damage associated with negative press, helping the brand to recover in the face of a crisis. As a crisis management tool, media relations is an essential service.

PR firms can help you select the services that are right for your needs. Because public relations is not a one-size-fits-all solution, careful customization is one of the most important aspects of a successful campaign.

What is Online Reputation Management?

Some think of online reputation management as “digital public relations.” However, ORM solutions don’t involve the public-facing aspect of traditional PR, focusing more on behind-the-scenes strategies that improve your brand’s online image and sentiment in Google search results.

A reputation management company offers a dizzying array of services that can include:

  • Reputation management
  • Reputation monitoring
  • Negative content removal
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) to boost visibility in search results
  • Corporate branding
  • Review management to generate positive reviews and suppress negative reviews
  • Social media management
  • Content development, including guest posts, podcasts, video sharing, and more

ORM campaigns may use some or all of these services to establish, build, or maintain a positive digital image. ORM services are designed to be flexible enough to meet the specific needs and goals of a client.

ORM shapes public perceptions

Comparing PR and Online Reputation Management

While similar to PR campaigns, ORM strategies tend to be much more technical than traditional public relations.

The main difference between PR and ORM is that PR is public-facing, while online reputation management works in the background to develop and preserve a strong reputation. A long-term reputation strategy using ORM services is critical for preserving what you’ve worked so hard to achieve: a positive digital presence.

Of course, there are similarities between PR and ORM. Both PR and reputation management work to shape public perceptions and foster trust between a company and its clients. These two strategies may even share some of the same tools.

Whether used individually or together, these different services offer powerful solutions for getting the most from your marketing expenditures. Combined, this two-pronged strategy builds mutually beneficial relationships that help pave the road to success for you and your business.

Choosing a PR Firm or Online Reputation Management Firm

In the sections above, we’ve learned the key similarities and differences between PR and ORM.

What makes a good PR firm? For that matter, how can you be sure your reputation management dollars are being spent wisely? We’ve put together some tips for you to help you choose the best public relations or reputation management servicer for your needs:

  1. Check the reviews. Are clients satisfied with the work performed and the PR strategies developed? Positive customer feedback indicates that the firm has built a healthy relationship with each client.
  2. Can the PR firm or reputation management company share case studies or demonstrate the results from reputation campaign? The best companies are happy to share their successes with potential customers; if they don’t, it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere.
  3. What are the price points of the individual services? Does the public relations firm or reputation management company offer packages, or can the client select the services needed for a certain goal?
  4. Will your campaign be assigned a manager? In most cases, a PR director or reputation manager is a powerful force to have on your side, helping to shape the direction of your campaign and to keep the individual components of that campaign on track.
  5. Does the outside PR firm have specific industry knowledge of your business? Specialty firms offer a competitive advantage, especially for niche industries. Reputation management is a bit more universal; ORM services and strategies can be applied to nearly any industry or business type.

Contact NetReputation Today

Still confused about PR vs. reputation management? We can help.

NetReputation is an award-winning leader in online reputation management. We have helped thousands of people establish, build, or repair their reputations in the digital environment. We have helped thousands of individuals and business owners take charge of the digital narrative, building trust and brand awareness in the process.

Learn more about our full selection of reputation management services, including public relations, by speaking with our online reputation management professionals today.

Call NetReputation at 844-461-3632 or complete the online form below for a free consultation.

Contact our ORM professionals today to learn more about public relations and reputation management services

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