Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Help Define Public Relations - #PRDefined

by Richie Escovedo (@vedo)

In 1982, a first-class stamp was 20 cents, Michael Jackson's Thriller was released, the world's population was 4.6 billion, and Johnson & Johnson had a PR nightmare on their hands that led to what is now a model crisis response case study. Ironically, 1982 was also the last time the Public Relations Society of America defined public relations.

Last week, PRSA launched a campaign to create a modern definition for PR with a dedicated site and a strategic Media & Advertising column placement in the New York Times.  I was thrilled to see this collaborative effort to get an updated (and hopefully better) answer to the question, "What is public relations?"

We've needed something new. Public relations takes a beating outside the industry from those who relegate it to only media relations or worse, spin. And honestly, we seldom do an adequate job within the ranks of PR pros of fighting these and other misconceptions. So it's time for a change. (Disclosure: I've been a member of PRSA since 2001.)

Out with the old, in with the new
In 1982, PRSA adopted a definition for PR as:
“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”
Today, we have an opportunity to adapt this definition to better fit what it is that we do. Take some time to review the notes from the one-day summit of the Definition of Public Relations Task Force.

The group concluded that a modern definition of public relations should be limited to a single sentence: 
Public relations [DOES WHAT] with/for [WHOM] to [DO WHAT] for [WHAT PURPOSE].
The group also saw the need for the modern PR definition to explain two specific things:
  1. How public relations drives business success; and
  2. How public relations protects and/or promotes the organization or brand.
Submit your definition by Friday, December 2, 2011.

Only the beginning
The campaign is just a start to what could be something really fantastic for public relations. Will the final definition end the debate? No way. Consider it the start to a much greater conversation within our field. I can't wait to see what's next.

Follow the conversation on Twitter with the #PRDefined hastag.

(This is cross-posted from the Next Communications blog.)
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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Nowhere to Hide -- Transparency, Communication, Integrity Protect Reputation

By Joan Hunter

*My Summary, Plus Full Speech, of GFW PRSA Ethics Month Speaker John “Pat” Philbin, Crisis1 CEO and former FEMA official.

Unethical practices or actions “are going to come out,” said John “Pat” Philbin, president and CEO of Crisis1, in Washington D.C.

Speaking to one of the largest-attended GFW PRSA monthly programs during our chapter’s September Ethics month, the former director of external affairs of FEMA, offered his personal experience and professional expertise on how public relations professionals can help protect and defend their organizations against unethical conduct charges – whether unintended, true or publicly misperceived.

As an Accredited Public Relations (APR) professional and long-time member of PRSA, Philbin emphasized the importance of leading our organizations to adhere to PRSA’s national code of ethics.

Philbin graciously agreed to allow the Fort Worth Chapter to share the text of his remarks which can be accessed at the end of some of his major points I’ve summarized here:

*Philbin emphasized that PR professionals must match the speed of traditional news media in getting their organization’s own messages out simultaneously, not just to news media but to all their key audiences.

His observations about the environment in which our organizations operate today included:

*Today, speed is viewed as “more important than accuracy.”

*(As a result of this environment), “we also can observe the role of technology and influence of immediacy in watching reporters who monitor twitter accounts and broadcast reports live without so much as qualifying the veracity of the information.”

*“PRSA’s Code of Ethics requires us to advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information that serves the public interest. It is one of the primary reasons that I entered this profession in the mid-1980s.”

*“…We as communicators must embrace and leverage the capability it (technology) provides by getting critical information to those who matter most to our organizations because we will be held to a much higher standard than the media if the information is inaccurate.”

*“I believe it is imperative to help organizations create trust with those who matter most. One way to accomplish this is to promote and enhance transparency throughout our organizations.”

*“The interesting thing about being transparent is that it can actually reduce risk.”

*“Doing the right thing and performing well is necessary but not sufficient. An organization that does the right thing well can be quickly dismissed, marginalized, bankrupted, you-name-it, if it does not communicate well.”

*“As a communications professional, there is little I can do to help a client if they aren’t doing what they say they are doing. Integrity is the only currency we have in public relations.”

*Philbin’s 25+ year career includes public and international affairs, business development, change management, crisis communication, media relations, reputation management and strategic planning with top-level senior governmental officials and company executives. He may be reached at or www.crisis1net.

Read the full text of Philbin’s remarks.