Tuesday, March 6, 2012

PR Redefined: A Global Perspective

It happens like clockwork at every social gathering when I go home– ‘The Question’ arises:

“Are you still in school, dear?” (Always said as though I’m a convicted felon serving time.)
“Yes ma’am.”
“Hmmm…and what is it that you’re studying again?”
“Public relations.”

Blank stare.

“Well, isn’t that nice.”

It’s something students and practitioners alike struggle with – and I’ve even heard members of the profession result to using terms such as ‘marketing’ or ‘advertising’ to describe it.  

To correct this wrong, the Public Relations Society of America recently set out to redefine PR for the first time since 1982 (to put this in context, 1982 was the year of Thriller and E.T.).

Out of 927 definitions submitted, the winner was….

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”**

Yes, the definition is simple and straightforward and perhaps a tad more idealistic than realistic with a subtle nod to the Grunig and Hunt two-way symmetric spill (there’s a rant for another blog…).

While it may help solve the PR identity crisis from an American perspective, it does little to unite PR from a global perspective.

Around the world, PR is still in varying stages of evolution – in some countries, it’s driven by media relations and a ‘wining and dining' mentality.  In other regions, PR is associated largely with development communication. In some nations, the profession is regarded as a lucrative industry, while in others, it’s not even called ‘public relations’ at all.

(For more information on global PR, consider purchasing ‘Global Public Relations: Spanning Borders, Spanning Cultures’. Yes, this is a shameless plug.)

The fact of the matter is public relations, particularly on a global level, may be too complex to nicely package in a definition.

Do you think PR can ever be defined by one definition?

By Chelsea Wilde

**I’m sure this definition was submitted by someone making far more money than I do as a graduate assistant.

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