Reactive vs Proactive Public Relations

2 May 2023

A good public relations strategy combines many different traditional and digital PR tools and techniques. But, behind the mix of marketing tactics, there are two ways to drive your PR efforts, proactively and reactively.

Proactive and reactive PR are both essential to your public relations strategy and together, work to build brand awareness, secure investment, and attract new customers.

What is PR?

According to the Public Relations and Communications Association, PR is “all about the way organisations communicate with publics, promote themselves, and build a positive reputation and public image.”

A common misunderstanding is that PR is about the public, when actually, it is about publics. Publics are audiences that are important to your organisation such as investors, the media, suppliers, employees, and customers.

PR can be both reactive and proactive in its approach meaning it can be used to seek leads and opportunities as well as respond to leads and opportunities.

What is reactive PR?

Reactive PR focuses on reacting and responding to opportunities and leads that come to you. A reactive PR strategy uses breaking news and trending stories to gain coverage and links for your business. For success, reactive PR must react quickly to place your business in relevant stories that have the media and your publics attention.

Often, reactive PR is also used as ‘damage control’ and crisis management. Should your business receive any negative publicity, reactive public relations would respond to the news situation.

What is proactive PR?

Whereas proactive PR is about seeking leads and discovering media opportunities. It is about active outreach and taking control of the narrative that surrounds your brand. Proactive PR allows you to establish your brand’s position and influence the conversation that surrounds your business.

This PR approach can be used to plan and schedule content in advance to reduce reactive activity. For example, each year the UK anticipates a ‘cold snap’ in weather and although we don’t know exactly when it will happen, we can prepare for when it ultimately does.

Using a proactive approach, automotive companies can begin planning almost reactive-style content to release when the time is right. In this instance, ‘Cars in the cold myths busted’ or ‘Winter driving myths’ would both be appropriate stories.

What is the difference between reactive and proactive PR?

Reactive and proactive strategies are both essential to your business and help promote and manage your brand reputation. However, it is important to understand how they are different and when to use each one.

Proactive vs Reactive


Proactive PR builds trust and a brand profile while increasing brand awareness and conversions. It actively promotes your business to your target audience and your publics.

Reactive PR responds to unique and trending opportunities and minimises crises. It is the process of responding to unexpected negative and positive press quickly.


Proactive PR reacts to an anticipated challenge and requires strategic planning and approach.

Reactive PR helps to deal with expected situations and does not require strategic planning as it only responds to a situation once it has already occurred.


Proactive PR tools include press releases, social media, influencer marketing, content marketing, events, and stunts.

Reactive PR tools include press releases, press conferences, social media, interviews, and digital PR.


Looking to craft the perfect PR strategy? Get in touch to find out how we can help!

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