On Why the Public Relations Industry Could Use Some Help with Public Relations

PRowl Public Relations wrote about the Public Relations Defined initiative several months ago (see the post here), where PRSA invited public relations practitioners to submit their definition of public relations. The submission period began in November and drew widespread interest as well as a not-so-small amount of complaints about the initiative.

What results of the initiative? A definition was selected from the three finalists and announced on Friday, March 2, 2012. The verdict? Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. PRSA defines each part of their found definition:

Simple and straightforward, this definition focuses on the basic concept of public relations — as a communication process, one that is strategic in nature and emphasizing “mutually beneficial relationships.”

“Process” is preferable to “management function,” which can evoke ideas of control and top-down, one-way communications.

“Relationships” relates to public relations’ role in helping to bring together organizations and individuals with their key stakeholders.

“Publics” is preferable to “stakeholders,” as the former relates to the very “public” nature of public relations, whereas “stakeholders” has connotations of publicly-traded companies.

As a management function, public relations also encompass the following:

• Anticipating, analyzing and interpreting public opinion, attitudes and issues that might impact, for good or ill, the operations and plans of the organization.
• Counseling management at all levels in the organization with regard to policy decisions, courses of action and communication, taking into account their public ramifications and the organization’s social or citizenship responsibilities.
• Researching, conducting and evaluating, on a continuing basis, programs of action and communication to achieve the informed public understanding necessary to the success of an organization’s aims. These may include marketing; financial; fund raising; employee, community or government relations; and other programs.
• Planning and implementing the organization’s efforts to influence or change public policy. Setting objectives, planning, budgeting, recruiting and training staff, developing facilities — in short, managing the resources needed to perform all of the above. (via http://www.prsa.org, PRSA’s Official Statement on Public Relations).

What do you think of this definition? Is it in line with what you know about PR? Let us know!

This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Kurie Fitzgerald.

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