Updated on November 23, 2011
What’s your definition of the term “public relations”? Does it match that of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA):
Public relations helps an organization and its publics
adapt mutually to each other.
Or in the UK, that of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR):
[…] Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.
Or even Wikipedia’s definition, which begins::
Public relations (PR) is the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
The PRSA‘s definition dates from 1982 – almost 30 years ago. I can’t tell when the CIPR’s does but I suspect it’s a bit more recent.
Yet are any of these definitions still valid in today’s contemporary society? A society in which so much has changed that the very notion of the practice of public relations seems anachronistic to many where anyone today with an internet connection is a communicator and, often, seen as an organization’s spokesman? And when news events develop at the speed of the internet?
If you have a more accurate definition, one in tune with contemporary society and the evolving needs of organizations in the context of that society, then why not answer the PRSA’s call to action?
The PRSA is leading an industry-wide initiative to modernize the definition of public relations as the industry changes in the digital age. Their campaign launched today via Stuart Elliott‘s column in the New York Times entitled Redefining Public Relations in the Age of Social Media.
Deciding on a new definition will be a good exercise in crowd sourcing. While the PRSA will lead on determining a short list of three new-definition candidates, the final decision will be made through open vote on the website between December 6 and December 15.
So wherever you are in the world, if you have a view about PR, share how you think it should be defined. The closing date for submissions is December 2. And why not also blog it, post it on your social network, communicate it and tell people what you think. Use the hashtag #PRDefined to connect your view with everyone else’s.
It’s a good time to be clear about public relations.
[Update Nov 23] Since this initiative was announced, there’s been widespread commentary in the social spaces, much of which you can find at the #PRDefined hashtag. In the UK, detailed blog posts have been written by practitioners that include Philip Sheldrake and Stuart Bruce, with strongly dismissive comment from Danny Whatmough.
Giving a keen fillip to the overall campaign is the CIPR which today announced its support for it.
I like Jon White‘s simple assessment of it, quoted in the CIPR announcement:
Public relations is a rapidly evolving practice. There are currently at least four competing views of what the practice is and is to achieve. The PRSA’s initiative is a good opportunity to clarify current views of the practice and the CIPR’s own work on the future of the practice fits well with the initiative.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s a good time to be clear about public relations.