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Posts tagged ‘edward bernays’

Much Ado About Nothing: PRSA’s #PRDefined Contenders Fall Flat

Embarrassed on April Lynne Scott's blog

Photo Credit: Matt King

Wednesday, PRSA unveiled three candidate definitions for their #PRDefined campaign, one of which will form the basis of a new, modern definition of public relations. PR professionals and the general public are invited to weigh in on the options to help PRSA in choosing – or creating – this new, modern definition of public relations. The “comments period” lasts through January 23 – you can through your thoughts in here. Without further ado – the contenders (plus added commentary):

Definition No. 1:

“Public relations is the management function of researching, engaging, communicating, and collaborating with stakeholders in an ethical manner to build mutually beneficial relationships and achieve results.”

I have a strong negative reaction to the word “stakeholder.” This word is not representative of all PR professionals in what should be a current definition of PR – not a limited description that defines few situations in the field. As well, it is unnecessary to include a laundry list of functions in this redefinition of our profession. And, if we need to state “in an ethical manner” in our definition we have a larger problem with our profession than the need to redefine it.

Definition No. 2:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that develops and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their key publics.”

Definition No. 3:

“Public relations is the engagement between organizations and individuals to achieve mutual understanding and realize strategic goals.”

I’m disappointed. It seems a committee selected words from the past century of PR definitions and crammed them into 3 new definitions. This is not at all how I imagined this process. This is much ado about nothing. These are not modern or new in any way, but simply a regurgitation of former definitions.

 

Let’s take a closer look:

In the early 1900′s Edward Bernays (some say the founder of public relations) originally defined PR as:

“A management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organisation with the public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”

Doesn’t this sound a lot like Definition No. 1? Should we want a laundry list that is in neither concise or all-inclusive PRSA can apologize for the hubbub and return to the original definition from the early 1900’s.

After several other revised definitions, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) again re-defined PR In 1982 as:

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

Doesn’t this definition also sound too similar to our “new, modern” definition contenders?

In the beginning, I struggled to get on board with redefining my profession, forced myself to take part in the process and am (to be blunt) embarrassed by the outcome.

I was under the impression the goal was to create a concise description defining our profession in a modern way that is easily understood by the general public. Why did PRSA not throw out the old, tired words we’ve used for more than a century and begin fresh? We need a new, modern, concise definition defining the uniqueness of the profession while allowing for the intricacies of technological advances and the wide-ranging environments serviced by PR professionals.  I hoped this effort would unite those in the profession and educate those outside of it. To the contrary, we have again put ourselves in an awkward position best described by Doc Searls (@dsearls):

“PR has the biggest PR problem of all: people use it as a synonym for BS.”

This was an opportunity to change the negative opinion of our profession. This was a opporunity to start the process of regaining respect. We have failed miserably. We owe it to ourselves to be a bit more innovative with our “new, modern” definition. Back to the drawing board, PRSA.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: 7 Ways PR can Take care, TCB (and Regain Respect)

7 ways PR can regain respect

There’s been a lot of talk lately about public relations. The death of PR, the redefining of PR, and the stress of the profession. PR is getting a lot of negative press. It’s time to stop debating the past and take action to regain respect.

“PR has the biggest PR problem of all: people use it as a synonym for BS.”

Says Doc Searls (@dsearls),

“It seems only fair to defend the profession, but there is no point to it. Common usage is impossible to correct. And frankly, there is a much smaller market for telling the truth than for shading it. Maybe it is time to do with PR what we do with technology: make something new — something that works as an agent for understanding rather than illusion. Something that satisfies both the emperors and their subjects. God knows we’ve got the material. Our most important facts don’t need packaging, embellishment or artificial elevation. They only need to be made plain. This may not win prizes, but it will win respect.”

7 Ways PR can regain respect

1) United We Stand; Divided We Fall
Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, says,

“Our goal will be to elevate public relations as a management discipline that sits as a full partner alongside finance, operations, legal, marketing and strategic leaders in the C-suite. We need to offer coherent strategy. We must work together or we will fall short.”

Integration between all communications, marketing and business channels is key to the success of a brand. Working side by side, strategies should touch on elements of each channel to form a united front. Small start-up or a publicly held corporation, mom & pop business or international celebrity; the road to success is paved with integration. Just do it!

2) Too Little, Too Late
fashionably late doesn’t exist in PR! Time is of the essence. Long lead? Forget it. This is a digital world where information moves at the speed of light. This means having the right people in the right place at the right time with the right knowledge and authority to respond. Without it you will be late to the party and doing yourself and your client a disservice. Timing is no longer negotiable. TCB.

3) More Than Words
Content goes far beyond press releases, speeches, and pitches. Today content is audio, video, podcasts, webcasts, email, eBooks, blogs, and social media posts (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg). Think about your story in a digital way. Multidimensional content marketing is the way to transform your words into content capable of reaching a larger audience. But, don’t expect them to come to you – communicate to them where they are in a language they understand by diversifying your content.

4) A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words
It’s time to update traditional writing skills with digital mindsets. Words are more important than ever. SEO and SEM are as important as the story you’re telling. All content (pitches, releases, video, photos – everything) should be optimized for search engines. SEO shouldn’t take away from the facts, story, or pitch, but it will help get your story in front of the right people.

Make the story visible; make it easy to find. Learn about keywords and SEO. Use this knowledge to enhance your writing and to bring your images to life.

5) Get Real
Richard Edelman calls this “Practicing Radical Transparency.” Being authentic starts with strategy, extends to clients, and doesn’t stop until it reaches employees, shareholders, media and anyone else listening.

In a speech delivered the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) Edelman said,

“We are the last line of defense for the truth, because our material is increasingly used as primary source data. We also must be scrupulous about policing our own behavior and even what we pass along in social media.”

Transparency builds trust.  Trust builds relationships.  Relationships build respect. Be real, be truthful, be scrupulous – no exceptions.

6) Free Your Mind
Expand imagination. Expand creativity. Expand your strategy. PR is guilty of living in the past; of being chained to traditional rules.

In “The 2015 Digital Marketing Rule Book – Change or Perish” Avinash Kaushik (@avinash) says,

“How good can it possibly feel to do unimaginative things that barely even worked on TV/radio/magazines/catalogs? Whether you are the Marketer/CMO or the Web Analyst/Ninja, it is imperative that we unleash imagination. Why doesn’t everyone do that already? I know that this sounds utterly simple but we, people and companies, don’t always realize that the “rules” have changed.”

The rules have changed. PR has spent the past 100 years arguing with itself about what the rules and definitions are anyway. Public relations professionals are doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Why not free your mind and venture into a world of truly creative and innovative PR?

7) Deadly Sins
Gone are the days when journalists waited by fax machines and office phones for leads on the latest news. They are searching the internet, connecting on social networks, using smartphone apps and getting the latest headlines in realtime. All of this actually makes it a great time to be in PR. According to Amanda Marsh (@AmandaNMarsh) there are “Seven Common PR Sins to Avoid.” Her post is a must read and stresses respect.

Marsh writes,

“Respect my inbox, and make both of our jobs easier.”

To regain respect, respect others. Brush up on your R-E-S-P-E-C-T and see if some of it doesn’t come back your way.

PR: Top Stressful Career? Maybe You’re Doing it Wrong-

Stressful jobs - April Lynne Scott blog

Yesterday CareerCast created quite a stir with the release of their annual list of the most stressful careers (see the full list below). On the list were enlisted military and military generals, firefighters, airline pilots, police officers, CEOs, public relations executives…

Wait. What? PR execs? This, coming at a time when PR’s own professional organization has led it into an identity crisis by setting out to (again) redefine the profession? Ugh. I simply can’t take it anymore.

A little history:

In the early 1900’s Edward Bernays (some say the founder of public relations) originally defined PR as:

“A management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organisation with the public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”
He spoke of publicists as:

“An applied social scientist who advises a client on the social attitudes and actions he or she must take in order to appeal to the public on which it is dependent. The practitioner ascertains, through research, the adjustment or maladjustment of the client with the public, then advises what changes in attitude and action are demanded to reach the highest point of adjustment to meet social goals.”

In 1978 the first World Assembly of Public Relations Association re-defined PR as:

“PR is the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the public interest.”

Finally, in 1982 the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) again re-defined PR as:

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

PRSA’s definition is certainly more concise than Bernays’ version or the World Assembly’s definition, but essentially all saying the same thing – right? And now we await (anxiously, I’m sure) the release of yet another definition from the PRSA’s Public Relations Defined initiative (#PRDefined).

As an aside: Bernays also said

“PR is not publicity, press agentry, promotion, advertising, or a bag of tricks, but a continuing process of social integration.”

Hold on. Did he say “social integration?”

Maybe you’re just doing it wrong:

Clearly, PR professionals have brought this stress on themselves. Sure there are people who don’t understand exactly what it is a PR executive does each day. Not to mention low budgets and high expectations, crisis communications and being on call 24/7, juggling clients and media (both of which can be rude), the perception that PR as a profession is dead and the digital unknown looming around us. Yes, it is true. There is a lot of uncertainty in the world of public relations these days.

Social media and digital communications have changed not only this profession, but nearly every profession known to man. This should not be a stressor, but an opportunity to acquire new skills and new perspectives. In many ways new media has made PR more relevant than ever and should strengthen communications and relationships leading to less stress in the field. We need to move forward into the future by “continuing the process of social integration” (Bernays could not have known how appropriate that statement would turn out to be).

As PR professionals we arm ourselves with cellphones and laptops and media lists, not machine guns or fire hoses… and I have never held someone’s spleen in my hands or sent someone’s son or daughter to war. So to list the profession of public relations (identity crisis or not) in the same group as any of these is just too much.

CareerCast 2012 List of the Most Stressful Careers:
1. Enlisted Military Soldier
2. Firefighter
3. Airline Pilot
4. Military General
5. Police Officer
6. Event Coordinator
7. Public Relations Executive
8. Corporate Executive (CEO)
9. Photojournalist
10. Taxi Driver

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