Is there a difference between ‘PR’ and ‘Internal Comms’?

The following post is written by South Australian internal communication specialist Lee Hopkins. Lee’s blog and podcasts can be found at http://leehopkins.net


I have been involved in a number of interesting conversations in the past week over the nature of ’employee comms’ and how it sits within the rubric of ‘PR’.
Granted, a more fully-accurate definition of PR involves the relationship between an organisation and its various ‘publics’ — shareholders, suppliers, employees and their families, local businesses, the media, etc., — but ask the man or woman in the street and they would probably consider PR to involve media relations, function management and glamourous launches (and lunches) in expensive locations.
The longer-term readers of my blog are aware that I am far more of an online and ‘internal communications’ specialist than an event organiser (Mrs BetterComms argues convincingly that I couldn’t organise a drink in a brewery without a secretary’s support). I’ve never set foot inside a traditional ‘PR’ agency (although I’ve had my fair share of ad agency lattes in my time).
A quick flick through the various job boards both here and overseas — say, Seek and Monster — highlights the pay discrepancy between ‘PR’-named jobs and ‘communication’-named jobs. Even more so if those ‘comms’ roles are for a client organisation rather than an agency that serves them (I’m guessing that the gap is because of the need for the agency communicator to always be billing for their time, adding to their personal stress levels).
Such is the discrepancy at the moment, and so ‘strong’ in numbers are ‘PR’ blogs as against ‘business communication’ blogs, that I’ve been considering re-casting myself as an ‘Online and Internal PR Specialist’. Maybe such a personal re-branding will positively affect the perceptions of prospective clients.After all, it is PR practioners who get seats at the Board Room table, very rarely Communications specialists.In a number of companies I know, the Communications Director (who does sit at the table) is an ex-agency, long-term PR practitioner, not a comms generalist who has worked their way up through the ranks via Work & Safety posters, employee newsletters and customer pamphlets.
Indeed, it is my experience that the internal communicator is far less likely to get formal media training than the PR practitioner. All in all, it is the ‘PR’-named communicator who seems to get the better end of the stick.
So, as you consider your impending career, are you already shaping your thoughts towards the type of role or employer you are first going to approach? On what do you base those decisions?
I’d love to know your thoughts.