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  • Writer's pictureRyan Walsh

Authenticity versus strategy: Who is the winner in PR?

In today’s world, people expect the brands and celebrities they interact with to be authentic. They don’t want to see shallow responses or actions coming from brands because they’re tired of the rigid, professional attitudes that were so common among companies just a couple of years ago. This article will explore how authenticity and strategy correspond, and, if in a battle for most useful, one would win out over the other in public relations.

In the past, brands relied on professional demeanors that were aimed to make the company an entity consumers could look up to and be reliable enough to purchase from. In today’s day and age, social media has drastically changed the way consumers interact with brands.

“With social media, things spread like wildfire,” Adriana Villa, account coordinator at Nuffer, Smith, Tucker Public Relations, said. “So something that wouldn’t have mattered 50 years ago, that nobody would’ve heard of, becomes a really big deal.”

Social media has led to many brands and celebrities losing followers and customers because of how they act online. Consumers want authenticity in the way the brands communicate with them, especially on social media platforms. According to, authenticity in public relations is important because it helps the brand stand out from the crowd with a message that is more relatable and digestible, which is essential to be successful on social media.

Also, the enormous amount of businesses and products that are available to choose from has led to consumers wanting more from their companies. People now care about the way the brand impacts the world behind closed doors, not just how they present themselves in public.

An article featured in stated that “64% of consumers believe that for a company to be more credible than its competitors it must talk about its behaviors and impact on society and the environment, not just the customer benefits it offers.”

According to Brittany Lam, an apprentice at Highwire Public Relations, a factor that affects how much authenticity you use in your approach would be what kind of agency or company you work for. A response from an agency that has hospitals as clients would use a different tone and language than a response from an agency that has fast food chains as clients would. Another factor to consider is how the situation and/or what information your company needs to convey affects the amount of authenticity or strategy used in your responses or pitches. An apology or crisis communication would require a mix of both.

“I do think you need to be more authentic when it comes to crisis communication,” J Public Relations Account Supervisor Mary Burkhardt said. “Instead of focusing on the negative thing that did happen, you want to focus on what you’re doing to fix the situation.”

With that being said, in public relations, it seems that it would be detrimental to have one quality without the other.

“Both go hand in hand…Being authentic is part of your strategy, but I also think that (…)everything you do in PR should be strategic. I think there’s a way to meet in the middle,” Villa said.

Strategy goes a long way in public relations, as your job is to make the consumer eager to continue to buy from and support the brand. On the other hand, authenticity is crucial to communication in today’s society because people want to have shared values and personalities with brands and people. Consumers want a deeper connection with organizations, but they still need to feel that the brand is reliable, which is why authenticity and strategy both win the title of most valuable in PR.

By Ryan Walsh

Ryan Walsh is a native San Diegan and fourth-year undergraduate student at San Diego State University. She is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Public Relations and a minor in Interdisciplinary Studies. She plans to graduate in May of 2023 and hopes to find work at a travel, lifestyle or fashion PR agency.

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