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:
- How public relations drives business success; and
- How public relations protects and/or promotes the organization or brand.
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.)