By: Sharon Linhart, APR

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Mar 6, 2012 | Linhart Blog, Our Business

What Is Public Relations?

The Public Relations Society of America helped spearhead an initiative in the past few months to modernize the definition of public relations.  Based on a public vote of three finalist definitions (out of 927 submitted), the profession’s choice for the updated definition is:  Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

The initiative isn’t just about updating the 1982 definition of PR.  It’s also about helping reshape and elevate the conversation about our profession and the value we offer organizations.  A New York Times article last week about the initiative indicated that it’s the “beginning of an ongoing, sustained discussion about what it is the public relations industry does.”

In that spirit, we asked several Linhart Public Relations leaders what public relations means to us and the value we offer clients. According to Paul Raab: “Public relations is the use of research and communications strategies to achieve organizational goals. These goals may be as diverse as increasing sales of a consumer product; building investor support for a stock; influencing employees to accept and implement a new corporate strategy; persuading the public to support an idea or point of view; or getting a candidate elected.”

Similarly, Kelly Womer believes “public relations helps organizations reach their goals by building, creating, defending or maintaining their reputation and relationships with key audiences – everyone from employees and customers to the media and general public. PR is about the why, what, how and when to communicate by and to whom.”

With the increasing influence of social media and digital media, for Paula Berg, public relations is “combining the art and science of communication in order to promote, protect, and defend individuals, organizations and ideas by helping people find and share information that is relevant and important to them.”

Many Linhart PR leaders also quoted others notable leaders and industry experts when defining PR. Raab cited Abraham Lincoln’s quote: “Public opinion is everything. Without its support, nothing can succeed. With it, nothing can fail.” Dawn Doty looked to her past to answer to this question: “I learned this definition years ago and believe it is relevant and applicable today even given the role social media plays in our profession –‘Public relations is the management function that identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various public on whom its success or failure depends.’ Cutlip, Center and Broom.”

What do you think about the new definition of PR?


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