Public Relations Defined

Bravo to the Public Relations Society of America for updating a rumpled, 30-year-old definition of public relations.

Whether coincidental or purposeful, PRSA did it in tweet style — exactly 140 characters.

During the past year, PRSA initiated a crowdsourcing campaign and public vote that produced the following definition:

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

It’s simple and straightforward and reflects the strategic nature of the communication process. This definition received 46.4 percent of the 1,447 votes to easily outdistance the other two finalists that emerged from 927 submitted definitions.

As a point of comparison, here is the previous formal definition, adopted by PRSA’s National Assembly in 1982: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

The other two finalists this year were “Public relations is the management function of researching, communicating and collaborating with publics to build mutually beneficial relationships” and “Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals.”

Whew. After failed efforts in 2003 and again in 2007, this time PRSA used a transparent, crowdsourcing approach to reach an outcome that better defines what public relations is. I like it.

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