One of the great things about social media is that it allows you to have a fluid discussion about hot topics and trends. PRSA is currently asking PR pros to help define PR, through its “#PRDefined” campaign. Last week, I read Mark Schaefer’s blog titled, “Marking the 100th Anniversary of the PR Profession’s identity Crisis.” Mark mentions the campaign and why more time is needed to define PR. It certainly raised my eyebrows, but wanted to see what others thought.
Thankfully, friend and colleague, Kevin Manne (@k3v2) read the post. Kevin, who works in higher ed social and new media, recently passed the exam for accreditation in public relations. We discussed Mark’s blog via Twitter and both mentioned Edward Bernays’ definition of PR, which is mentioned in Mark’s blog.
We moved the conversation to email, where Kevin said he felt Bernays’ definition is still fairly accurate. “Though the tools and channels which are used for public relations may change,” Kevin said. “The fundamental profession remains the same. With social media, now more than ever we have the ability to truly build and maintain two-way relationships with our publics.”
That’s one of the reasons PRSA felt it was time to better define our field. I reached out to Keith Trivitt (@keithtrivitt), the associate director of public relations for PRSA. I thought it would be good to get the ideas behind the #PRDefined campaign.
“What we are trying to establish with #PRDefined is a dictionary-like definition that addresses this issue of clarity of public relations’ most common precepts,” Keith said, “while allowing for flexibility for individuals and organizations to add their own value points and context to a common definition.”
While Bernays’ definition is still valid, the #PRDefined initiative, according to Keith, will help modernize the definition of public relations, in order to better address the current and future role and value of public relations.
I understand where Mark Schaefer was coming from because, I, too, originally asked, “Why are we still trying to define PR after all these years.” But, Keith made a good point to me, to which I agree wholeheartedly. People taking issue with the campaign is good because it adds to the discussion. “We’re confident that whatever new definition the profession chooses will be roundly supported by much of the profession,” Keith said. The vote will take place publicly in mid-January.
The response to #PRDefined has been overwhelming. According to Keith, in just the first two weeks of the initiative (Nov. 21–Dec. 2, 2011), which coincided with the crowd-sourced submission phase, PRSA received more than 900 distinct definition submissions, 16,000 submitted words to define public relations and nearly 30,000 page views of the “Public Relations Defined” website. There were also dozens of blog posts and business and trade media articles written about the campaign, including an endorsement of the initiative by PRWeek Editor-in-Chief Danny Rogers.
My take? Let’s continue the discussion and debate, even after PRSA comes up with its definition. Bernays’ definition holds up well as (hopefully) will the society’s. If both mean a better understanding of PR, that’s a good thing.
Let me know your thoughts on PRSA’s #PRDefined initiative and how we define our field, in general, in the comments.