Reactive vs. Proactive Public Relations: Importance & Example Scenarios

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: LeRon Haire

LeRon Haire is an education professional with over 5 years experience in higher education within the University System of Georgia. Haire has received an MBA with a marketing undergraduate concentration and has the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators, certified in Business Management.

In this lesson, we'll define and compare the terms reactive and proactive public relations, discuss why they're important, and look at some examples of the two types. Updated: 04/03/2020

Public Relations

In today's business markets, one of the most important things to an organization is the ability to market or advertise their products or services. There are two important types of public relations that play a major role with organizations and individuals, which are proactive and reactive public relations.

Proactive public relations refers to the ability of an organization to take control of the PR message that's being relayed to the general public and aim to get the word out before anything bad can occur.

As a contrast, reactive public relations can be defined as a marketing approach that attempts to combat or defend any negative issues or events related to an organization. True to its name, reactive public relations does not take effect until after a negative or unsatisfactory event occurs and has the potential to damage the reputation of an organization or an individual. Let's take a look at why proactive and reactive public relations are important, along with situational examples of each.

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  • 0:04 Public Relations
  • 1:04 Proactive Public Relations
  • 3:17 Reactive Public Relations
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Proactive Public Relations

Many organizations today incorporate proactive public relations as part of their advertising strategies. Before we take a look at an example of an organization using proactive public relations, let's take a look at some of the characteristics of proactive public relations to get a clearer understanding of why it's so important as an advertising tool.

Strengthens the Image of the Organization

A proactive public relations strategy helps to strengthen the image and brand of an organization through the use of communicating through the media at no additional cost. This gives an organization the opportunity to spread their intended message and not reach into their own budgets to do so. Being proactive allows an organization to control the conversation instead of allowing the conversation to control the organization. In the eyes of the public, this will only help to strengthen the brand and image of the organization.

Low Costs

As previously mentioned, public relations differs from other types of advertising due to the fact that it does not set out to purchase or buy advertising space. The advertising for proactive public relations is done for free by the media. Although the message is better controlled when purchasing an ad or commercial, most organizations enjoy the benefit of any free public relations that they can receive.


The general public typically perceives proactive public relations messages as more credible than any advertisements that are paid for. For example, when there is an ad placed in a newspaper, many individuals feel as if the newspaper is simply advertising the message because they have been paid to do so by an organization. A message that is delivered by a news reporter or journalist is perceived as more credible because there was no money paid for it to be delivered.

For an example of proactive public relations, let's look at a fast-food chain that prepares healthy meals to go. The establishment can be proactive by describing their fresh and healthy ingredients in commercials as well as listing a nutritional guide to their meals upon entering the establishment. Any customer that enters the fast-food establishment is able to look on the wall or over the counter to see the nutritional information of the meal that they are choosing.

Reactive Public Relations

In contrast to proactive public relations, reactive public relations involve an organization or individual defending against a negative event or any negative publicity that has occurred.

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Reactive vs. Proactive Public Relations: Importance & Example Scenarios Quiz

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Which of the following is an example of proactive public relations?

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