Extreme Makeover: Public Relations Edition


Why are we here?

The Public Relations Society of America is making over its own definition of “public relations.” Its 1982 version still stands as the official wording, even with a few past attempts to update the look and feel of the profession: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”  Yikes.

A call for entries from both industry pros and the public has been issued and submissions are being accepted via blog online form (deadline is Friday, December 2).

The results from most PR pros may stand to be the least shocking. After all, we love to manage the message, don’t we?  In our industry, we’re constantly tasked with defining ourselves and our clients, drawing on terms from day-to-day routines and global context. Expect to see familiar friends like “communicate”, “messaging”, “audience”, “media”, “effective”, “convey”.

Most curious, however, may be what non-PR audiences think of us.  Based on an outsider’s view, what is public relations and who are we as its representatives? If opinions are based on fictional depictions from  films and TV, expect terms that either flatter us as savvy trend-setters (“social”, “eloquent”, “notoriety”), or depict us as swaggering spin doctors (“schmooze”, “smear”, “pester”). Or suggestions might illustrate once again that a sizable audience actually has no idea what we do, supporting the notion that the definition of “Public Relations” has been ambiguous for far too long.

The results of the online form will appear in a “word cloud” on the PRSA’s PR Definition blog. While we’ll have fun guessing who submitted what, we may also get served a slice of humble pie.  Feel free to chime in: what IS public relations?


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