What Are the Differences Between HR & PR Work?
The primary differences between human resources and public relations work are HR’s role in employee hiring, policies and procedures, and PR’s role in media relations and other external PR functions. Personnel in both areas require excellent interpersonal skills, and the actions and successes or failures of one department can certainly have an effect on the other. However, they are not so similar that they are counted among similar occupations in their respective Bureau of Labor Statistics profiles.
An HR staff is the link between employees and the company. They handle questions and problems, brief employees on benefits, help set and enforce organizational policies, and handle both hiring and job terminations. The department is integral to employee satisfaction; it enforces policies equally, mediates disputes and circumvents potential problems. For example, if a valuable employee is hired but ultimately unhappy with her job or her department, HR can work with other managers to find a job that is a better fit.
PR work is about relationships and image. PR personnel handle media relations, which involves writing and disseminating press releases, scheduling media interviews and pitching story ideas. They handle requests for information from media or other stakeholders such as investors or analysts. Some PR work requires special event planning to draw attention to the company or its products, or to enhance community relations. PR personnel also develop internal communications to keep employees aware of activities and foster positive morale.
HR is not involved in media relations such as pitching reporters to persuade them to cover the company or its products. The HR staff would not invite media to a press conference, coordinate a press tour, or write press releases and media alerts. An HR staff member would not be a company’s primary spokesperson or main press contact person. Those activities are all the responsibilities of PR personnel, who do not select employee benefits, enforce personnel policies or hold responsibility for other personnel procedures like HR staff members do.
The level of interpersonal communication skills necessary is similar between HR and PR staff, as each must be adept at handling people. They must be persuasive, likeable and engaging. How well HR does its job in recruiting and hiring can affect the public perception of a company; similarly, if the company maintains a positive public image, HR is likely to have greater success in recruiting top talent. Internally both departments have a vested interest in employee relations and communications.