PRSA attempts to Define our industry

November 22, 2011 at 2:10 PM 2 comments

Being a relative new-comer to the Public Relations industry, I find myself in a situation familiar to most veteran PR professionals: unable to explain exactly what I do.

Most of my Gen-Y friends see what I do as a sub-set of advertising. Others view me simply as a corporate writer, while a few think I just “play” on Facebook and Twitter all day.

All these answers have some truth to them, but as someone who makes a living influencing perception I  feel pretty stupid not being able to give people a good definition for PR. Which is why I’m excited about what the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is doing for the next couple weeks with their “Public Relations Defined” initiative.

I won’t got into the details of the initiative here (you can catch good coverage of the why & how from the NY Times, Forbes or PRSA themselves), but I did want to share my definition.

As PRSA crowd-sources definitions, it will be interesting to see how pros, students and academics in the field collectively answer the question: “what do you do?”

Public Relations establishes and strengthens strategic relationships through ethical, honest and transparent actions

with/for key stakeholders of an organization

to establish mutually beneficial rapport and goodwill among these stakeholders

for purposes that support business objectives by arming stakeholders with the truth.

There’s room to expand on this definition, but knowing that PRSA has already collected over 400 responses in two days, I’m happy about my drop in the bucket.

What would you add or subtract from this? Anything blatant I missed? Small tweaks for improvement?

OR, fill out the PRSA form for yourself.

Unfortunately, my definition comes far from a concrete explanation that sufficiently communicates what I do. Here’s to hoping PRSA can bring it down to that level. 😀

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

TFMCNB – 11/5/11 – Mediocre PR Giving Thanks to my mentors and colleagues.

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bill Sledzik  |  November 22, 2011 at 5:16 PM


    I may be a little biased, being that we’re, you know, related. But I think you’ve nailed it. I would only dump one thing, and that’s the words “public relations.”

    We’re quickly headed to a time when PR, advertising and marketing communication all come under one umbrella. The social web has forced our hand on this one. There’s no use fighting it.

    I wish I had something more creative to suggest than “Strategic Communication,” but those words say it all. If we’re going to redefine PR, we should also rename it. Strategic Communication is a stronger and more descriptive label, and one I’m certain they would have a lot more cachet in the C-suites.

    I’d love to submit this name to PRSA along with your definition, but I have a funny feeling we wouldn’t win the contest. PRSA has a lot invested in those two little words, and they’ve built a pretty big silo around them.

    By the way, props to PRSA for all the buzz created around this initiative. A lot of people are talking and reflecting. It’s a positive thing for the profession an for the society.

  • 2. Chris  |  November 22, 2011 at 5:39 PM

    I agree that dropping “PR” makes sense, but there’s many hurdles — PRSA, as you’ve mentioned, not being the least of them.

    But even if the organization and affiliated professionals started using a different term, I don’t see “PR” going away. Just as “strategic communication” inherently describes much of what we do, managing reputation and building good will among the public is aptly captured by the words “public relations.” It’s the connotation of the profession that has been skewed. The difference in judgment between you and PRSA is that you think it’s skewed beyond repair — something I tend to agree with, but you already pointed out our like-mindedness. Plus I’m an optimist and think a new definition will help either way.

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