PR & Branding

What Is the Difference Between Branding & Public Relations?

It can be hard for a small business owner to distinguish between branding and public relations since both are used to accomplish business goals. In addition, both share foundations such as research, writing, psychology and communication and often the same tools such as social and traditional media. However, it is important for business leaders to understand the uses, strengths and limitations of each discipline in order to avoid wasting time, money and resources.


Understanding the differences between public relations and branding starts with untangling the end goals. In a nutshell, public relations is about managing relationships while branding is centered on creating an identity. According to the Public Relations Society of America, “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” Put more simply, organizations employ public relations to manage relationships with their stakeholders such as employees, media, government officials and investors. On the other hand, branding is designed to create an identity for an organization or product. According to an article in “Bloomberg Business Week,” an organization’s or product’s identity is built through creating a personality, promise or lifestyle or a combination of the three.

Reputation Management

While both deal with an organization’s reputation, public relations can help a small business owner protect and defend her company during times of crisis. Crisis communication, a subset of public relations, is designed to research, predict and combat situations which disrupt the normal flow of business such as an accident, lawsuit or persistent online or real world rumors. For example, Johnson & Johnson used effective public relations to quickly and openly communicate with the news media and consumers during the 1982 Tylenol poisonings. Through public relations, Johnson & Johnson was able to protect and even solidify its company’s brand in the eyes of consumers.


The order of public relations and branding is a key difference between the two. Developing a brand must come before engaging in public relations, advertising, marketing or any other communications-related company activity. Without clear agreement on the identity of the company or product, communications efforts will be scattered, ineffective and a waste of money.


Public relations and branding have different subsets. Employee, government, media and investor relations are under the public relations umbrella. By contrast, branding subsets include individual, generic and family branding, brand extensions and brand imagery and naming.