Back in November I wrote about the global quest to define Public Relations (PR) and this week the results were unveiled.

Various organisations partnered with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) who led the contest to search for a new way of defining what ‘public relations’ means. This included the UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

After extensive debate and a crowd-sourcing exercise to glean views from communications professionals from around the world, there were three definitions up for the final vote. The winner scored 671 out of 1447 votes (46 per cent of the total vote).

And the winner is…

In its own explanation of the phrase’s meaning, the PRSA says the new 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.

What do you think? Does this definition work for you? Do you agree with it? Would you be happy to use it? To be honest I’m not bowled over by it, I think it works and can be understood but it doesn’t ‘wow’ me. I was interested to note that it’s 140 characters too.

What happens next?
The PRSA has promised to implement the new definition to replace the one currently in use that dates from 1982: Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.

I think the next steps will be crucial as the partner organisations take it on board and work with their members to communicate it effectively so it becomes part of the way we do business and seeps into the PR culture.

Communicator Neville Hobson has compared the new definition to others that are in use and weighs up its merits. I like what he has written and recommend you check out what he thinks here.

Post author: Rachel Miller

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