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Posts tagged ‘public relations society of america’

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.

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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

PR is dead and so is Social Media

How you – yes, you – can raise them from the dead

The new year is right around the corner and it’s time to get in touch with our healing powers. How many times do we have to rehash this argument anyway?  PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) is hurriedly connecting life-support by attempting to revive and redefine PR. Seriously? PR has had more lives than Felix the cat and, in fact, does anyone really care if PR in its original form has to die a terrible death?

I’m just going to say it – PR is not dead.  But, it must reinvent itself. Some believe PR has been reinvented through social media… as social media. But let’s get one thing clear – New PR is not Social Media. And even if it was, unfortunately, social media is also, well, dead. Social media too has run its course – it has been pulled away from its “social” roots and is also in need of its own resurrection.  Dear friends, let us not mourn for the loss of PR and social media for we are the guilty. We have turned social media into no more than a tool to shove our products, marketing messages and opinions down the throats of our once loyal friends and followers. And because we haven’t been good stewards of the medium the relationships are dying and so is the medium.

What happened to the conversations?  Where are the relationships?  Having a Facebook page or a Twitter account just isn’t going to cut it – we are going to have to work harder to add value, create a buzz and form relationships (just like in real life).   Social media is, after all, building relationships through meaningful conversation and in essence being “social”. The same goes for “public” relations – creating valuable and loyal relationships with your public. You can’t have a conversation with something that’s dead. So, how are You breathing life back into this beast?

As publicists it is time we look forward into 2012 with this as our #1 resolution – the breath of life: Integrate.

But how?  First, Stop holding onto the past. The traditional foundations of PR and marketing are not being called into question here – we had to know the rules in order to break them… or expand them. So let’s start expanding.  Second, we need to stop fighting with each other… this traditional vs. new media tug-o-war. Can’t we all just get along? Give up the fight! Integrate! (Yes, that was two exclamations in a row.)

We have to begin working hand in hand with each other. Marketing, sales, advertising, analytics, development, communications – online and traditional… It doesn’t matter if you’re a small start-up or a publicly held corporation, the road to success is paved with integration. Sharing is caring and this year is the year. Just do it!

And while we’re at it learn to do it better and faster (this is resolution #2) – time is of the essence.  Publicists and marketers no longer have the luxury of time. The future of PR, marketing and media is real-time. Think, react, respond, relate – instantly… or risk being left for dead.

We will not mourn for you, beloved traditional PR and young Social Media, but instead we will celebrate your resurrection and transformation into something new and beautiful – something loved and nurtured. In 2012 let’s all resolve to evaluate, manage, communicate, execute, socialize, strategize, analyze, identify, engage, market, and disseminate as we all join hands and sing kumbaya… together. From social media to multimedia, PR to marketing, mobile to print, SEO, CRM, web, e-mail and  everything in between. can you feel the love?

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