PR VS. PERSONAL BRANDING: A SHOWDOWN

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simplybe agency

Since I started SimplyBe. I have (more times than I want to admit) clarified that we are a personal branding agency, *not* a public relations firm.

There seems to be a lot of confusion between these two fields, and for good reason. They both exist to connect people through strategy and communication. However, the ways in which personal branding and public relations function are very different, and the two are by no means interchangeable.

So I’ve decided, once and for all, to settle the differences between the two.

Welcome to the Personal Branding vs. Public Relations showdown: a faceoff between the marketing and media industry’s heavy hitters.

Let me set up a scenario for you:

You reach out to a publicist at a PR firm, looking to get media coverage for you or your company. They, along with their expert team, put together a press release that is polished, sassy, and sizzling. They reach out to journalists and editors, pitching you to ideal outlets. These journalists and editors are the true decision makers in the PR process. They read your perfect pitch letter and consider their own deadlines, project calendars, and agendas. They decide whether or not to give you coverage. All that’s up to you at this point is crossing your fingers and hoping they pick you. Even if they do choose to feature you, you have no say over the tone, style, or perspective. This is just the nature of the PR process; the power rests in the hands of the journalists and editors.

In personal branding, YOU are the journalist.

You work with your personal branding expert to develop your own content. You pick the tone, style, and perspective. You laser-focus on your audience through social media, newsletters, and websites to ensure that your content is going to the exact people you want to see it, rather than publications with wide-ranging demographics. You and you alone (with the help of your personal branding team, obviously) are in charge of developing your platform, establishing your thought leadership, and cultivating an audience. In personal branding, you don’t get a magazine article that features a slice of who you are: you get the opportunity to craft your own comprehensive narrative and share it with the world.

Let’s get real: public relations requires surrendering control, but that does not mean that it’s not an effective, valuable, or necessary industry. The partnership we have with Mekky Media, one of Chicago’s premier PR firms, is invaluable to SimplyBe. Public relations is all about getting your name out there. It’s ideal if you have something timely you want covered that’s seasonal or trending. Think the launch of a new company, product, new service, business, or an upcoming event, fundraiser, or launch party.  PR also loves seasonality, recency and trends, so think breaking news, current events and popular cultural, societal and political narratives. With PR, depth isn’t your goal as much as reach. A publicist can get you the quick coverage you need from a blurb in a magazine to a clip in the evening news. These "hits" can prove to be invaluable dependent on your goal.

A personal branding expert, on the other hand, focuses on the the long game. You turn to us when you’re looking to establish thought leadership through an evergreen platform that offers a consistent source of ongoing promotion. Personal branding is not tied to one event or one idea, but rather to who you are. As personal branders, our goal is to turn the spotlight on you and your expertise, offering you credibility through transition periods such as a job promotion, career-track change, or workforce re-entrance. We specialize in creating an aesthetic brand, producing thought leadership content in the form of blogs and videos, social media consulting, and booking conference appearances. While these don’t offer the same instant gratification as a feature in a magazine, they build vital credibility over time. Where PR is focused on the moment, personal branding is concerned with the future.

PR is a shorter game. Personal branding is a long game. PR is excellent at building buzz. Personal branding establishes thought leadership.

Both are super important, but that doesn’t stop them from being incredibly different. So, while this showdown ends in somewhat of a tie, the next time you think about increasing your exposure, ask yourself: am I looking to generate buzz? If so, public relations is the route for you.

If you’re looking to establish a legacy, however, then personal branding is the best option.  

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