Although not true, Public Relations is referred to as a young or new profession and as such has received many different definitions. But PR has been deployed in different ways throughout the years. This essay will examine three available definitions of PR and include one of my own.
Defining public relations
The task of defining public relations is difficult because of its scope. The scope of public relations work is different as per the individual organization or individual with varying responsibilities. Also, the PR industry can refer the industry as the relations with the public while the public meaning will vary as well. Throughout the years, definitions for PR have tried to capture all that the industry entails. The reason why its definition is challenging is because PR is relatively a new industry especially in getting recognition in the corporate environment. This is coupled by the fact that technological advancements in the last few years and its legislation have affected PR thereby changing the scope of PR duties. Although many definitions exist, the one thing that all these definitions have is that they refer to the influence of public opinion.
There are different PR definitions and they include:
According to Fraser Seitel (2004), “Public relations is a planned process to influence public opinion, through sound character and proper performance, based on mutually satisfactory two-way communication.” The book also describes a PR professional as a practitioner as well as an all round general communications council to the management. Thus for this reason, a PR officer should be reporting to the CEO direct. This definition provides a modern and accurate description of all that PR entails. The author further describes PR as a planned process referring to the managed communications with the management, employees, stakeholders, customers, political affiliates and all the public. The PR professional should therefore be armed with appropriate information to represent the organization to these different groupings and the public in general. The PR therefore should positively and effectively represent the company and change and influence the public opinion. This essence describes what PR is about; change, modify and or influence a public attitude that will be about actins and behavior change (Seitel F. 2010).
Fraser Seitel describes the PR professional to also show the roles that they perform in PR. These are the people who are involved in the company’s entire communication implying that they are always forming and should also maintain relationships, researching, writing, managing and searching for opportunities to communicate with different people who matter to the company (Seitel F. 2010).
The second definition is from the official definition adopted by the Public relations Society of America, PRSA. The statement reads in part, “Public relations helps our complex, pluralistic society to reach decisions and function more effectively by contributing to mutual understanding among groups and institutions. It serves to bring private and public policies into harmony.” The PRSA mentions the importance of two way communication in saying “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” The statement reads that PR is to influence public opinion and at the same time that PR should assist the public to in reaching decisions and not just shaping decisions for them. The statement says the importance of organizations’ influence on PR to meet their goals. (PRSA Public relations Society of America).
According to the Council of Public relations website, it states that “In their service to clients, public relations firms play a vital role in encouraging public discourse.” In this definition, clearly influencing public opinion is taking center stage. The definition continues to talk about the profession and the assistance that is due to the clients; educate and or persuade them in that matter. PR should be well formulated with objectivity and be flexible enough and be able to admit humility when deemed necessary to do so. PR persons should be armed with facts to be able to influence public opinion to their side.
After all the internet and book definitions for the definition of PR, I could define the word as “a way of promoting , creating, managing and maintaining of an organization’s message to the outside world by establishing a two way communication to persuade the public opinion in a positive way towards the company.” The key to achieve this public persuasion will be high degree of professionalism and understanding one’s scope of work and by being objective in order to positively sway the public opinion towards the company. My definition’s goal is to “sway public opinion” towards the organization having in mind the public is varied; from the investors, employees, and the general public. (Council of Public relations).
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We have seen from above that there is no definite definition of PR. This is due to the scope of PR in different organizations, changes in technology and at the same time due to the fact that the industry itself has evolved in the last several years to be where it is although PR is a new and not a fully accepted concept in some quarters. But over time, PR has been used by governments, individuals and organizations to communicate with their targets to communicate certain messages intended for them. In this modern era, it is of significant to keep PR robust enough to formulate a positive picture of the organization to the public and be able to rise above any noise that any is buzzing.