Redefining An Industry


– #10 –

The Public Relations Society of America has been leading an initiative to modernize the definition of public relations. Discussions have been held through various venues to construct a definition that will highlight what public relations does as an industry.

On Sept. 29, 2011, PRSA hosted a one-day summit at its headquarters in New York to discuss the need for an updated definition and the process to undertake such an initiative. According to the official blog for the initiative, eleven organizations (in addition to PRSA) were represented at the summit or have since joined the effort, including:

Here is the current definition of public relations as stated on PRSA’s official site:

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics
adapt mutually to each other.”

According to the site, this definition was formally adopted by PRSA at the 1982 National Assembly.

What has developed from the summit held in late September was an agreement that the best definitions currently held by allied industries (e.g., advertising, branding and marketing) encapsulated four components:

  • Function
  • What
  • How
  • Why

Tied together in a single sentence, participants at the summit felt this would be the best approach to guide the process of defining:

Public relations [DOES WHAT] with/for [WHOM] to [DO WHAT] for [WHAT PURPOSE].

They also felt the modern definition should address two specific targets:

  1. How public relations drives business success; and
  2. How public relations protects and/or promotes the organization or brand.

PRSA extended an invitation to all interested in contributing to share their modernized definition on their blog.

How would you define public relations?

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