By: Rachel Beatty 

There is much confusion when it comes to public affairs and public relations. It is true that they are similar, but they are also very  different.

How so, you ask? 

Well, you must first understand the two fields as they are:

Public affairs has been a developing industry over recent years. It consists of building relationships between organizations, politicians, governments and other numerous decision-makers.

Public relations, on the other hand, is a strategic communication process that builds on mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and their public.

So, it’s safe to say that public affairs is a subcategory under the umbrella of public relations.

Okay, but what makes public affairs different from all of the other niche markets within PR?

Public affairs is and will forever be a growing field within public relations. Large organizations, governments and politicians are some of the biggest influencers in today’s society.

The relationships built between these entities and their publics serve to mold the media and shape public opinion. This means that professionals in public affairs have the power to shape public opinion.

This is important because in today’s society, public opinion has the power to affect legislation. Without the correct form of communication to the public, words can be misinterpreted, misguided, and can even go unheard.

Public affairs pros work to to prevent the miscommunication between organizations and their publics, while still balancing the strong ethical concerns that come along with working in the world of politics. At the core of this process (and in PR) lies effective communication.

My advice to future public affairs pros? 

Look beyond the propaganda!

Rachel Anne Beatty is a student at Grand Valley State University, majoring in Public Relations and Advertising, with a double minor in Psychology and Studio Art. Rachel is very active on campus in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), Phi Sigma Sigma, and GrandPR where Rachel serves as the Programming Director. Outside of school Rachel volunteers her time by serving on the JBoard of Directors for the BISSELL Pet Foundation. She also works part time as the Second Assistant Manager at Yankee Candle at the Byron Center. Rachel’s top five strengths, according to the Clifton StrengthsFinder are Ideator, Developer, Relator, Indivualization, and Activator.