Reputation Defenders

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

PR vs. Reputation Management: What's the Difference?
Richard Doan
Reputation Defenders Team
9 min

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

It's easy to confuse the two, but there are some important distinctions between publicity and online reputation management regarding reputation building (or repair). Although they share resemblances and may be used in conjunction, they serve different purposes.

Public relations (PR) is often thought of as amplifying positive news about your brand, product, or company through social channels or press releases. It can also involve influencing the public conversation surrounding a brand's reputation.

On the other hand, online reputation management (ORM) is all about protecting and managing a brand's digital presence. An online reputation management firm isn't a PR firm — its services look more like ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and digital defensive strategies than actively seeking traditional media attention.

PR firms tend to be more relationship-based, while online reputation management firms are usually more specialized and content-oriented. ORM services usually happen behind the scenes, often calmly supporting PR campaigns in the background, and are not as obvious to casual observers.

Public relations (PR) vs. online reputation management (ORM): what's the difference?

Most people are familiar with the typical Public Relations activities of advertising a brand. These activities can range from writing and advertising press releases to scheduling news meetings, interviews, and possibly even events. They are an important part of any brand's marketing strategy, but it is important to understand that there is a clear difference between public relations and online reputation management.

While Reputation Management services may seem very similar to PR, they are different. ORM services focus on the brand's long-term reputation strategy rather than the promotional character of public relations. Publicity is usually more about making buzz around a brand or project, often in a short-term effort to lead to longer-term exposure or sales. Additionally, while PR relies mostly on traditional media channels like print, radio, and TV, ORM looks at how people interact with your company online to craft strategies for improving your visibility and standing among potential customers.

PR works in the spotlight and Reputation Management behind the scenes.

Large businesses set aside sizable budgets for marketing expenses like TV spots, billboards, and online banner ads. They aim to increase a product or brand's market presence and sales. But for companies and individuals alike, two additional promotional activities, public relations (PR) and online reputation management (ORM), are no less important. These two functions are evolving as increasingly vital, and although they are not similar, they go hand in hand.

PR works in the spotlight to establish what's known as "brand identity." At the same time, ORM manages a company or individual's online profile through various tactics that allow you to shape how potential customers or partners perceive your business. So although PR and ORM are not the same when used together, they can help achieve optimal results for a company or brand –especially if done correctly–and foster trust between consumers who may be considering goods or services from you.

What are public relations?

Public relations has been around since the early 20th century, and its primary purpose over the years has remained consistent: to manage an organization's positive and negative reputation. Public relations aims to improve a person's or organization's public image.

According to the Public Relations Society of America, public relations is "a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics." The definition tells us from SEO-relevant points of view that there is a proactive and reactive component to a successful PR strategy. It will involve careful planning — research into who your audience is and how best you can reach them — but it will also require an agile response to handle unplanned crises seamlessly, often referred to in PR circles as "damage control."

Finally, while much of what we do in PR involves internal crisis management, ultimately, PR practitioners are expected to be forward-facing. After all, "communication process" and "public" are in the official definition; our job is steeped heavily in outreach with current and potential customers, so having those sources on your radar at all times should always be a priority.

What are the core elements of public relations campaigns?

Public Relations (PR) campaigns are created using different strategies, tactics, and activities to achieve a specific goal. PR campaigns often accompany online reputation management (ORM) campaigns for businesses attempting to protect or restore their image/brand to earn the public's trust. For example, a business with negative customer reviews would benefit from ORM and PR to rebuild its credibility.

Components of Public Relations Campaigns typically include:

  1. Assessment - Evaluating your public image among peers, prospective customers, and others produce a direct readout of your potencies and weaknesses (online reputation management's research stage has a similar function, although it applies specifically to your digital presence).
  2. Image – How do you want people to perceive you? This component involves shaping your public identity according to what you consider yourself or your brand values/mission statement.
  3. Messaging –This component strategizes how you will get the message out and what platform is best suited for the message.
  4. Social Media Presence – The campaign must have an active social media presence to reach the target audience easily, utilize multi-channel marketing campaigns when necessary, decrease message delivery time and keep communications consistent between all platforms.
  5. Budgeting– Establishing a realistic budget for the campaign is essential since it will determine which tactics can be implemented within your capacity constraints. Every choice must fit the campaign's overall strategy outlined in step one.

What is online reputation management?

Online reputation management (ORM) is the practice of monitoring and proactively seeking to shape public opinion of a brand or individual by influencing online information about that person or entity. This includes suppressing negative search results, maximizing positive sentiment, and managing social media conversations. ORM services tend to be "softer" than traditional PR, leveraging search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, and social media strategies to ensure that positive content outranks negative content in search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific keywords or phrases associated with any given entity.

ORM campaigns are similar to public relations campaigns but tend to be much more technical and often out of the public eye. The goals, however, are usually the same: To build ongoing trust relationships between an organization and its stakeholders while removing or mitigating risks online.

The process typically includes some or all of the following steps:

  • A comprehensive study on your pre-campaign reputation and sentiment, including risk analysis.
  • Technical SEO optimization, such as cached pages being removed.
  • Proactive content creation.
  • Targeted usage of specific keywords specified during research.
  • Legal arguments using defamation laws where appropriate.
  • Targeted media outreach.
  • Reputation monitoring as a tech-driven process, including periodic reviews following initial progress milestones, achieved.

Typical activities during a reputation campaign

When companies or individuals need to boost their reputation, Omnipresence Reputation Manager (ORM) campaigns are often employed. This type of campaign is designed to act in the face of negative news and perceptions, restoring public confidence in a person, brand, product, or service. ORM campaigns generally involve pushing out great content assets to highly visible outlets on the Web.

Along the way, ORM campaigns may use some or all of these steps: boosting the search engine optimization (SEO) value of current web properties, pushing favorable results and higher search engine result page (SERP) mentions and pushing down negative content, making new web properties that serve as additional sources of positive content; supervising online review sites such as Yelp, accentuating positive comments and scores without affecting objectivity; outreach to and formation of a content-producing relationship with influencers in a related area; monitoring tracking and enhancing the performance of all owned, earned and paid-for content channels.

Are online management campaigns different?

The digital age has changed the face of business, requiring new strategies to ensure success. A wise and strategic incorporation of online reputation management (ORM) is one of the tools that help businesses come out ahead in the highly competitive web-based marketplace. But is every Reputation Management campaign the same?

Yes, for the most part, ORM campaigns follow a similar general framework with some specifics depending on what services are requested from an ORM firm. The client's needs, the industry, and the relationship between the client and the Reputation Management firm often need different services. But ultimately, there is a common goal: cultivate greater sentiment around your web visibility while minimizing or eliminating any possible negative content from appearing when someone looks you up online.

How should a comprehensive campaign look?

In today's digital age, it is more important than ever to consider how a comprehensive reputation management and public relations (PR) campaign should look. A successful strategy must encompass both disciplines, as PR and ORM must go hand-in-hand in brand building. An overarching campaign must consider an individual's or business's reputation within traditional PR channels, such as search engine results, news articles, and social media profiles.

Fortunately for today's would-be marketers, the days of needing a Fortune 500 marketing budget have long receded into history. Firms specializing in online reputation management (ORM) know this economic reality and offer services at prices tailored to pretty much any firm. However, it is up to you to ensure your provider has what it takes to deliver a successful campaign: they should have real-world experience delivering ORM campaigns (particularly white-label ORM services if working with PR agencies). Lastly, you want the system's flexibility to scale out your presence as you grow easily.

What traditional PR activities could I Have for a promotional campaign?

Promoting your brand or company through PR activities is an important element of an effective, comprehensive promotional campaign. There are many aspects to such a campaign; some have more impact, while others may be quite cost-effective. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Donating time, goods, and money to local charities and community associations, using related events as authentic possibilities to "show you care."

You are securing consultations and promotional spots on TV shows, podcasts, influential blogs, and other news and media platforms pertinent to what you do to showcase you and your business.

Sending out branded press releases highlighting accomplishments and news about your brand or company.

They are investing in the positive offline press, such as TV commercials, outdoor and indoor ads, etc. These ideas serve multiple purposes – they raise awareness of the company's work, provide credibility for the company itself, position key personnel within their industry as knowledgeable thought leaders in their field, humanize the faces behind the brand or product on offer, help build trust through evidence of past successes that can be seen online by potential customers among other benefits.

Are PR and ORM two sides of the same coin?

Public relations (PR) and reputation management (ORM) are similar. This is because content marketing, or the practice of using content to create a favorable impression around you, your company, and your brand, is indeed similar.

One of the main differences can be attributed to the speed or approach. While it can be part of a larger plan, PR might be a quicker event or application, such as an interview or press release, but it creates a connection with your current and potential customers. This is important because recent studies have shown how important emotional connections can be — an estimated 65 percent of customers surveyed said they felt an emotional connection with a brand. On the other hand, ORM deals more with long-term damage control operations than just positioning for increased visibility or product endorsements.

Differences Between PR and Online Reputation Management FAQs

As the digital world progresses, it's important to understand how two different strategies, Online Reputation Management (ORM) and Public Relations (PR), can be used to protect a company's reputation in the online space. Knowing which strategy should be applied to achieve the desired outcome is key.

Here are some frequently asked questions about these topics:

What are the main differences between PR and ORM?

PR often secures interviews, releases press releases about activities or products, and invests in online and offline advertising. ORM activities will look to manage what is publicly available online. It can include research on online reputation, adding articles and content for higher SEO, suppression or removal of negative content, identification of influencers, and more.

What are typical PR activities?

Structured media opportunities such as press conferences and giving interviews with journalists from traditional outlets like TV channels, newspapers, or radio stations are all part of the Public Relations campaign.

What are typical ORM activities?

Most ORM activities involve checking blogging sites, news websites, forum postings, or social media conversations to remove any inaccurate information that an unsatisfied customer or competitor may have posted. There is also ongoing monitoring of mentions made through various channels so that swift action can be taken if necessary.


December 30, 2022

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

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