The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) writes in a Feb. 6, 2012, op-ed in The Drum about why it is leading an international campaign to modernize the definition of public relations. PRSA Chair and CEO Gerard F. Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA, says in the opinion piece that the public relations profession has failed to adequately define its work, which has caused confusion about public relations’ role and value. He goes on to say that this has created a “PR challenge” for the profession, which PRSA’s “Public Relations Defined” campaign is out to change by “engendering a dialogue and debate about what public relations is, what practitioners do, how we do it and who benefits from our services.”
The Drum previewed the op-ed in a separate article on its website.
By Gerard F. Corbett, PRSA Chair and CEO
Published: Feb. 6, 2012
On the surface of it, the issue of properly defining public relations might not seem like a terribly important cause to take up. After all public relations has existed for more than a century. Why try to redefine it now?
And yet, as many readers of this publication know all too well, society has a preconceived notion of what PR professionals do — some concepts more targeted than others — but no universal definition exists that clearly delineates the modern scope of public relations in the 21st century.
In essence, we in PR admittedly have a PR challenge.
The Drum’s editor, Gordon Young, explored this issue in his Jan. 26 leader column. He reviewed an initiative — the “Public Relations Defined” campaign — led by my organisation, the Public Relations Society of America, and encompassing 12 global partners, to modernise the definition of public relations.
In addressing how public relations has evolved from a largely media relations-based discipline to a modern profession steeped in a complex mix of stakeholder engagement, reputation management and services that blend paid, earned and owned media (i.e., advertising, PR and marketing), Mr. Young clearly summarises the situation that plagues PR today:
For a profession on which businesses spend billions of dollars each year, there is remarkably little understanding of what we do.
Recent discussions, blog posts, tweets and mainstream articles paint a more nuanced picture:
- Public relations professionals continue to struggle with properly defining their work;
- Existing definitions are not sufficient; and
- No one definition is considered the de facto industry definition.