Gini Dietrich

Redefining Public Relations

By: Gini Dietrich | February 13, 2012 | 
173

Right before the holidays, PRSA embarked on a new initiative: Redefining public relations.

An admirable undertaking and one that surely was not to please everyone, they made an impressive decision to have the definition crowdsourced.

There were, of course, some flaws in how you could submit your definition. In an effort, I would guess, to make everything uniform and make it easier for them to get through all of the responses (nearly 1,000 of them).

Last week they announced the final three definitions and voting is open for you to participate.

I have lots of friends at PRSA so I hope they don’t take offense to this: The definitions suck.

They are:

  1. Public relations is the management function of researching, communicating and collaborating with publics to build mutually beneficial relationships.
  2. Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.
  3. Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals.

I’m a communication professional and I have no idea what any of these mean. They all are full of corporate, marketing lingo bingo.

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do. You say PR. They say, “Oh! You know, I never understood PR. What is it?”

And you say, drumroll please, “Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals.”

Say what?

Last week you read about The Difference Between PR and Advertising here. In the comments, Maddie Grant and I are still debating the difference. It’s an important conversation (even if you don’t agree with me).

It’s not quite a heated debate, but it certainly lends itself to the bigger conversation about the definition of PR.

Maybe it’s the difference between working for a large corporation (where Maddie got her early career experience) and a global PR firm (where I got mine). I never did much media relations, or publicity, when I worked for agencies. Now that I have my own, we rarely do any. And, if we do, it’s part of a larger marketing program.

But the point is not PR is not publicity (though it’s not – I’m not letting it go!), the point is, we’re communication professionals. Why is it so darn hard to describe what we do?

You can vote on one of the three definitions. Voting closes on February 26.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

Spin Sucks in Your Inbox

Leave a Reply

173 Comments on "Redefining Public Relations"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest
DannyBrown
4 years 4 months ago

Sweet mother of confusing shit, that’s the best out of more than a thousand suggestions?? Let the confusion continue…

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@DannyBrown That’s what I thought, too. I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to define it in plain, clear language.

JayBaer
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich@DannyBrown Because people are scared that by saying it plainly it will come off as diminished, or lightweight, or smarmy. So instead, they come up with these definitions, which officially ratify those shortcomings.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@JayBaer @DannyBrown In a profession that claims transparency is best, that really bothers me.

DannyBrown
4 years 4 months ago

@JayBaer @ginidietrich Ironically, by making it so lingo-heavy, they come off as aloof and unapproachable. As Gini says, sad.

Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing

I’m so disappointed. We did a better job at my house last spring determining something more contemporary than “strategic process of engagement.” Sigh.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing I think so too, Jayme. In fact, when I went to submit my idea, I went back to your blog posts and pulled some from there. I think we were really hampered by the fill in the blank method. It makes me sad.

Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing

@ginidietrich Ditto that!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Oh. AND.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

KenMueller
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing From me too!

EricaAllison
4 years 4 months ago

@KenMueller @ginidietrich @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing And me, too!

EricaAllison
4 years 4 months ago

@Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing Agreed! I was looking for something a LOT better – I voted anyway, but more along the lines of the lesser of three evils….

KenMueller
4 years 4 months ago

Sometimes communications professionals aren’t very good at communicating, eh?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@KenMueller It’s really terrible.

KenMueller
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich We had the same problem internally in radio. amazing.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@paulroetzer Sigh…why is this so hard?

paulroetzer
paulroetzer
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Wish they would spend their time innovating and moving industry forward, rather than trying to define it.

Frank_Strong
4 years 4 months ago
Seems to me PR is ashamed to say we’re trying to – directly or indirectly – convince people to buy something (business), join something (association), support something (government or non profit) or vote for something (political). We get wrapped up in this idea that somehow we should be impartial. We are not. We shouldn’t pretend to be. We are advocating for a particular point of view, product or idea. Ultimately, our goal is to get other people to say nice things about whatever it is we are representing, in person, in news, in blogs or on social media. It’s third… Read more »
Shonali
4 years 4 months ago

@Frank_Strong I like where you’re going with this. @ginidietrich … I agree with you, and I feel bad, because I have a ton of friends in/at PRSA too. But this entire exercise really tires me. What’s the point, if the above three options are all they can come up with? What exactly is different, new, or understandable about them?

Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing

@Shonali @Frank_Strong @ginidietrich Each definition is essentially the SAME with word juxtaposition. I would pick #3 too as it’s just slightly more creative. Is it even worth a vote? What these are, though, are far better than what exists now via PRSA.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@Shonali I don’t think there is anything understandable about them. Next time you Skype with your mom, read them to her and then have her describe what you do. Heck, I can’t even tell you what we do from these.

Shonali
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Now *that* would be the conversation that never ended…

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@Frank_Strong Amen! It also really bothers me when PR pros say it’s the job of marketing to sell stuff…not ours. I almost got kicked out of a LinkedIn PR group because I advocate driving results to the bottom line. We absolutely have affect on the bottom line…and should not be ashamed to talk about it.

Frank_Strong
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Well, if you do get booted, Gini, it would be there loss. I give credit to PRSA for trying. Even had no issue with the delay; take all the time you need. However, the outcome is underwhelming. Part of the issue is that the way PRSA solicited feedback: it was very structured, which put the definition of PR into a box from the beginning of this project.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@Frank_Strong Totally agree, Frank. I was disappointed when my hands were tied in what I could submit. But there was an opportunity to at least make it easy to read and understand.

RickRice
4 years 4 months ago
@Frank_Strong I really like what you’re saying here. That is what we do convince people. The only thing I’d add is that we also convince management / clients to put the right policies and practices in place so the right people can support them. @ginidietrich I’m glad you’re continuing the conversation on this. Those three options are just plain embarrassing.If that is the best PRSA can come up with using crowd sourcing then we in the industry should take up dairy farming. Those three ‘definitions’ are examples of things clients hire us to make sure they don’t actually let see… Read more »
maddiegrant
4 years 4 months ago

Thanks for keeping this conversation going! I’m planning a blog post too. I’m really shocked at how bad those PRSA definitions are. More soon.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@maddiegrant I’ll be looking for it!

trackback
4 years 4 months ago

[…] ABC is the Ad Industry’s Favorite Media Brand [MediaPost] Redefining Public Relations [Spin Sucks] The Perfect Valentine for Social Media Addicts [Social Times] Dog Food Commercial Uses Whistle […]

SidMaxPR
4 years 4 months ago

So this is what my dues went for, eh?

Some people just don’t get the idea of simplicity. We counsel our clients that less can be more, but @PRSA didn’t get that memo or attend that class in school.

I once told my then five year-old daughter, “Daddy gets paid to make other people look good.” What’s wrong with that?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@SidMaxPR There is NOTHING wrong with that.

SidMaxPR
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich When I first read these definitions, I had to wonder if a copywriter wrote them. I was shocked to see them.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@SidMaxPR I think the issue is the way they crowdsourced it. You filled in the blanks. Public relations does X for X when X. So there wasn’t much leeway in describing what we do.

SidMaxPR
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Yeah, I was sent the invite about the definition. It makes me wonder why PRSA jumped on the crowdsourcing bandwagon as opposed to actually using their noggins. Innovation does not have to use technology, but the industry seems to be moving too far into that direction.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@SidMaxPR I get why they did it. I would guess they want to show they’re open to ideas from the industry. But I also wonder who made up the committee to vote on the ideas? Do they have PR experience or do they have experience running associations?

Lisa Gerber
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich@SidMaxPR That’s exactly it! It was crowdsourced and I can see the flip chart now, with the keywords. and then they were all incorporated into one sentence.

KDavispr
KDavispr
4 years 4 months ago

@SpinSucks Could not agree MORE! Love your blog, too BTW.

HowieSPM
4 years 4 months ago
This reminds me of when Bob Hoffman the Ad Contrarian makes fun of Advertising/Marketing Speak. Both Industries (Ad/MKTG is worse btw) to create a bunch of mumbo jumbo to sound more impressive or complicated than it is, thus garnering higher revenues and more job security. Like the CEO who says ‘Damn this PR Agency is great we haven’t had any PR Crises’. Without thinking that maybe the lack of crises is because they run their business right. Or the Brand CEO that credits the Ad Agency for the success of a product that sells itself (think IPod as a great… Read more »
HowieSPM
4 years 4 months ago

btw I chose option 4 Public Relations is sending a Tweet

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@HowieSPM This is slightly off-topic, but there was an article that one of the guys at Chiat Day wrote, after Steve Jobs died, where he practically took credit for the success of the Mac because of the advertising. I nearly fell out of my chair.

HowieSPM
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich They don’t like me because I keep telling Pepsi to change their creative agency because they are the root of their fall from grace. Curious what adscamgeorge thinks of them.

Anyhoo now that we know PR is all about Publicity can we discuss a real profession? Like Skeet and trap Shooting. adamtoporek bdorman264

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@HowieSPM adamtoporek bdorman264 Did you know Adam and Bill invited me to go shooting with them on my birthday? Best. Gift. Ever.

bdorman264
4 years 4 months ago

@HowieSPM @ginidietrich adamtoporek Those pesky skeet, we are trying to eradicate them before it turns into something bad like the python situation in the Everglades…..

bdorman264
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @HowieSPM adamtoporek Of course; we wanted to make it something special……:). Those skeet didn’t have a chance………

adamtoporek
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @HowieSPM bdorman264 We invited her… then Bill wrote us both life insurance policies.

adamtoporek
4 years 4 months ago

@bdorman264 @HowieSPM @ginidietrich Way we were going, those clays should feel pretty safe. Maybe we should have invited Howie and his alien laser.

bdorman264
4 years 4 months ago

@adamtoporek @HowieSPM@ginidietrich We might as well have been throwing rocks at them, huh?

JodiEchakowitz
JodiEchakowitz
4 years 4 months ago

As a communications professional, one of the things I think we do really well is help the companies we work with either refine or develop their core messaging to ensure they can effectively explain what they do, why and how they do it, and why anyone should care. If we can do it for companies we work with, then we should be able do it for our own profession. This is just sad.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@JodiEchakowitz Right?!? We’re communication professionals, but we just can’t get this right.

DeborahInComms
DeborahInComms
4 years 4 months ago
Surely all we’re doing is … helping… organisations… to communicate in order to help them achieve… their goals… or aims… or purpose? Media relations can be part of it – and so can advertising! So can a telephone call, a speech, a tweet, a blog post – a picture, research, even mediation. The fact that PR got stuck in the corner of media relations says more about the specialisation and skill sets of agencies – and those aspects of communications that businesses or organisations find difficult, which is handling stakeholders like journalists. Most organisations can cope with the kinds of… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@DeborahInComms I AGREE!! The best PR does lead to selling. We tend to group goals in three areas: Brand awareness, increased profit margins, and shortened sales cycles. But everything we do is public relations/communication. It absolutely leads to sales.

Byron Fernandez
Byron Fernandez
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Hilarious. Will def check out the 3 definitions you included. And NO, publicity is NOT PR. It’s merely an outcome of doing PR in the right place, at the right time, for the right person and for the right reasons …

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@Byron Fernandez You’re not a text book PR practitioner, huh? I don’t think any of us are.

Byron Fernandez
Byron Fernandez
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @Byron Fernandez Ironic… I think I attended (1) PRSA conference in college. Not to knock on the industry, which we all clearly deeply respect and love.

But, to the same end, I was too busy working full-time, traveling and driving real-time change/campaigns in agency internships and for other community orgs to sit around and say I was the President of a Club, that asked for membership fees every month.

Perception and impressions may be “reality,” but Reality, Truly? Is about perspective and results, not paved with surface appearances.

helenabouchez
helenabouchez
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @Byron Fernandez Depends on what book you’re looking at. Today’s “textbook” PR practitioner (which is an e-book, naturally) wears multiple hats — marketing, media relations, search optimization, writing, networking and sales. We are masters sales and marketing integrators. We are required to understand the client’s business so we can help them make it clear to prospects and influencers why they need to engage with or buy from them. Such unclear, jargony definitions of the profession are the exact opposite of this. How can we derail this and get them to start over?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@helenabouchez @Byron Fernandez I don’t know that we can. The reason they decided to take it on, in the first place, is because a lot of the PR bloggers were up in arms about the 30 year old definition. I respect they took it on. But it doesn’t get us further ahead.

Byron Fernandez
Byron Fernandez
4 years 4 months ago
@ginidietrich@helenabouchez What Gini said. Helena – your point exactly. WE can’t derail this and get them to start over, THEY must. They can respect the value of blending the “old” and “new” hats by putting to practice what they continue to scrutinize with a microscope. Time to take out the telescope and begin driving, not whining from the backseat saying “we don’t know what we are or how we’re getting there.” It’s the classic kid syndrome: “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?!?!?” NO — and we may never get there. Move on, and do what you can with… Read more »
helenabouchez
helenabouchez
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @Byron Fernandez It’s a branding issue that needs way deeper scrutiny and study than polling 1,000 people and making a tag cloud. It’s a forrest/ trees thing. There needs to be outside perspective and discovery as part of a story finding process that arrives at a definition (or symbol) we can all embrace as true and what’s happening now. Ultimately, whatever definition is chosen will languish on a mug or wiki somewhere but it won’t unite us or help our prospects and influencers better understand our true value. And that’s too bad.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@helenabouchez @Byron Fernandez Totally agree, Helena. Paul Roetzer said, on Twitter this morning, it’s too bad we can’t all work together to innovate and move forward. I’d love a regulatory body so things such as astroturfing and whisper campaigns don’t happen. I’d also love a unified way to measure results. It can be done, but it’s not required.

Byron Fernandez
Byron Fernandez
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich@helenabouchez Yeaa…astroturfing is for Asphalts … (not expletive cause Dietrich no Like-y 😉

Byron Fernandez
Byron Fernandez
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @helenabouchez Yeaa! Astroturfing is for Asphalts … (play-on expletive cause Gini doesn’t like bad language 😉

Byron Fernandez
Byron Fernandez
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich lisagerbertylerorchard Um… I couldn’t choose any of those. Guess I’m not a “textbook” PRactitioner

DeborahInComms
DeborahInComms
4 years 4 months ago

An awful lot of PRs are better publicists than they are PR. And sometimes publicity is a useful tactic in PR – especially if you’re trying to aren’t sales or votes.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@DeborahInComms It definitely is *a* useful tactic. It’s just the *only* tactic.

jcmichener
jcmichener
4 years 4 months ago

What surprised me is how devoid of any kind of emotional engagement all three definitions had. I’m not looking for purple prose here, but something to grab on to!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@jcmichener I don’t know…purple prose would work for me! 🙂 I agree…this doesn’t do anything more than give us a reason to include it in our weekly corporate speak bingo game.

jcmichener
jcmichener
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich LOL! Too true and that’s just too sad!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@orange_BLAST Sigh…

orange_BLAST
orange_BLAST
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Great article!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@orange_BLAST Thanks!

Lisa Gerber
4 years 4 months ago

Talk about not taking our own medicine, WOW! This made me laugh out loud, especially the cocktail party line. Waddya mean? I’d so say that at a cocktail party!!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@Lisa Gerber I”m going to say it next time we’re together. Just to see your face.

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel
4 years 4 months ago

So…take a crack at it! What is YOUR definition?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@rustyspeidel Who is this?

Leon
Leon
4 years 4 months ago
G’Day Gini, I don’t know that it’ll be good PR for you, but this Aussie curmudgeon agrees that these definitions are gratuitous goobledegook! Remember; I’ve worked in and around HR for over 40 years. I’m an expert at recognising goodold “gratgobble.” I’ve recently been part of a “spirited debate” about leadership and management on LinkedIn. I pointed out that it was the great business eminence himself, Peter Drucker who said, “Leadership is defined by results, not attributes.” I’m a great believer in, as we old buggers used to call it, “defining your terms.” Of course, if what you say is… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@Leon You know I completely and wholeheartedly agree with you. It’s also a conversation dougdavidoff and I have quite often…most communication professionals don’t know how to demonstrate results. And that really is the issue of all of this.

jcmichener
jcmichener
4 years 4 months ago

About a bllion years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a PRSA writing workshop in NY with a VP at a big PR firm. He was great and this was his definition (I paraphrase and this is not word crafted). Public relations – messages that hit an audience emotionally and then give them the reasons to: do, not do, or allow you to do.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@jcmichener A billion years? You look amazing for being a billion years old! That’s a great definition. Why can’t we get closer to that?

jcmichener
jcmichener
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Well, I just turned 54 so 1985 FEELS like a bilion years ago!

Byron Fernandez
Byron Fernandez
4 years 4 months ago

@jcmichener@ginidietrich That’s when I was born! Great year! And my Soul wholeheartedly concurs …

SociallyGenius
4 years 4 months ago

Maybe the P in the PR is Throwing people off. Before O started reading Spin Sucks, I was under the impression that you all were publicists or cleaned up on damage control. I’m not exactly a noob, but I’m sure my naivety is shared by others.

Let’s re-invent the wheel and start calling it CR!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@SociallyGenius As in company relations?

Also, I love the word noob.

SociallyGenius
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich guess that’s why you’re the pro and why may

SociallyGenius
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Guess that’s why you’re the pro and I might be a noob after-all… Your C with company actually sounds better than the one was thinking of – communication 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@SociallyGenius I just like calling you a noob.

SociallyGenius
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich SWEET! Please excuse me while I go brag to my friends!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@SociallyGenius LOL!!

jeffespo
4 years 4 months ago
This whole redefining campaign really is kind of like a brand “trying” to go viral or trying too hard to be relevant. Like you I have some friends at the PRSA @ginidietrich but with that said, was this really needed. At the end of the day a “new” definition is just another look at me action and does not get to the root of the industry having an identity crisis. These definitions confuse me as they are just jargon. Also will the new definition have any kind of ability to hand-smack or penalize people who go about their business in… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@jeffespo Well, you know I agree on the regulatory body thing. But that’s not the purpose of PRSA. They are a membership organization. We’ll have to create the regulations on our own.

mitchellfriedmn
mitchellfriedmn
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich this issue of #Redefining #pr appears to be the gift that keeps on giving 🙂

mikelleliette
mikelleliette
4 years 4 months ago

It definitely is hard to explain or ‘define’ what Public Relations is. I feel like we could go on and on about what we do, and each PR professional could probably say something different about what they do, because we do a lot of different things! But why is it so hard to ‘define’ PR? I think it’s hard to do because our role changes so drastically day to day and job to job. Is it possible to even define PR?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@mikelleliette It’s funny you say that because Maddie and I are debating that very fact. Why can’t we say we do XYZ to create improved margins and shortened sales cycles? I know that goes a bit into what marketing does, but the lines are really blurred now. May as well show real results for our efforts.

Trace_Cohen
Trace_Cohen
4 years 4 months ago

I choose option 4. None of the above.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@Trace_Cohen LOL! I don’t think that’s an option.

KensViews
4 years 4 months ago
Without claiming that the three are wonderful, truly capture what PR/Communications people do, or aren’t FOJ (Full ‘o Jargon) I’m laying down a new decree: No one is allowed to knock PRSA’s current definitions without suggesting a different, and hopefully, better one/s. This is an extremely difficult exercise, and one that’s badly needed. They’re not there yet, but wouldn’t we help the industry by attempting to improve what they’ve come up with to date, or even offering up something better, rather than just saying that what they’ve created isn’t good enough? (I realize that they serve us, the members, but… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@KensViews We did this last year. About 10 bloggers did it. It was painstaking and we spent many weeks on it. When it came down to it, though, none of that mattered because we were boxed into fill in the blanks. That said, I think that campaign had an influence on helping them decide to take on this initiative. I respect them for doing so…it’s just not quite right.

KensViews
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich It is painstaking. I tried a few times, and gave up. Went back to the work of helping PR firms. (And the work of marketing myself to get known by said firms!) Might there be a point in re-floating the bloggers’ ideas? Sometimes large organizations get input, but then edit the life out of it. Maybe they need to be politely reminded to consider putting back some of the “color” you no doubt gave them!

Frank_Strong
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Gini, would you share a link where you have those definitions?

wabbitoid
4 years 4 months ago

Can an amateur try?

PR is the single human face for an organization of many people.

(always best to keep it simple, and when defining the undefinable use a touch o’ poetry)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@wabbitoid I like the amateur try!

adamtoporek
4 years 4 months ago

Best definition I’ve ever heard of PR was from Seth Godin: “PR is the strategic crafting of your story.” Not my industry, but I don’t think I’ve heard a better one yet.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@adamtoporek I suppose that’s good. I’d like to see something that ties to the results we accomplish. But there is so much negativity around saying we actually help a company sell that may never happen.

PaulRobertsPAR
PaulRobertsPAR
4 years 4 months ago

Great post Gini. While, unlike you, I don’t actually have any friends at PRSA, I did support the idea of redefining PR and I agree that none of these even come close to hitting the mark. In same ways it is probably a good thing that our industry is so diverse that it is difficult to capture in one statement, but it is still sometimes a little embarrassing. I just going to start telling people I’m in business communications.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@PaulRobertsPAR I have a friend who stopped saying she’s in PR. She does communication for a global hunger so, instead, she says she helping the world end hunger. It never comes up that she’s in PR.

GalaxyKannanGtp
GalaxyKannanGtp
4 years 4 months ago

PR definition has been redefined & redefined but still no end……. when r u going to decide a PR definition??????

Bensie Dorien

prcompanionpr@gmail.com

http://www.prcompanion.com

C_Pappas
4 years 4 months ago
Blech! Gobbledygook (love that word from David Meerman Scott) galor! Public relations is interesting when it comes to describing what it is ‘you’ do and the functions under that umbrella because it is so diverse. Some PR firms are still focusing on the media mentions (I had one even tell me they still kept clip books for clients) while others (like Arment Dietrich) are going beyond that to integrate PR functions into a communications strategy which may or may not include content marketing and social media. Any exercise a company or industry performs in an attempt to define themselves often… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@C_Pappas Please tell me you’re joking that some firms still keep clip books??

C_Pappas
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich @C_Pappas

Im not naming any names but I nearly fell over in my chair when they said it in a pitch. Right after that, they said they loved trade shows and wanted to work our booth at all of them. LMAO

jenzings
jenzings
4 years 4 months ago

Those definitions are yuck. I think part of the problem is that PR is constantly defined as a “thing” when in fact it is a process or activity. PR seeks to improve communication between audiences. Whether it’s public affairs or crisis comms or publicity, the objective is always improved communication, isn’t it?

I get that this is hard. But this has produced exactly what I thought it would–incomprehensible gunk that is no better than the last definition. And it, sadly, will do nothing to improve the reputation or understanding of PR.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@jenzings It would be great if the definition tied to business results. But so many are afraid to say (and show) they can help a company produce sales. It’s not how we work, but I know we’re in the minority.

ShakirahDawud
4 years 4 months ago

Ouch. Your last qurestion is a good one and it smarts, but one answer, I think, comes from the type of communication you do. From what I’ve learned, it’s so big picture it’s hard not to fall into glittering generalities every now and again… although I have to say none of those have much sparkle to ’em.

But to be fair, though, they are defining here, and that’s different than explaining…

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@ShakirahDawud That’s a great point…it’s a definition, not an explanation.

mdbarber
4 years 4 months ago
You know I love you Gini but I have to say that I’m more in @KensViews camp on this. I too have friends who work at PRSA and many other friends, like you, who are active members and volunteer leaders. It’s really easy to sit here and cast stones. Creating a new definition is important and it was bound to be controversial. I agree the definitions have more jargon than I wish they did. However, can we please find some common ground to 1) provide some positive input to PRSA and the 11 other groups involved in the task force;… Read more »
Frank_Strong
4 years 4 months ago
@mdbarber Yes, thanks to PRSA for trying and to all the people that put in the effort. It’s a thankless job. I think even the most outspoken critics could find common ground there. However, the outcome still doesn’t meet the needs, as indicated in these comments. Customers don’t buy services they don’t understand – and PR happens to be a service many do not understand. It needs to be simplified — it needs to be a definition that can be understood at a cocktail party. It’s why the industry ranks about $10 billion, which is less than 1% of an… Read more »
DeborahInComms
DeborahInComms
4 years 4 months ago

@Frank_Strong @mdbarber I find most customers of public relations know what they’re buying – though that doesn’t mean the definition works at the cocktail party and with one’s mother. Isn’t the challenge that the definition needs to be more encompassing to help transform the perception that PR = manipulation + media coverage?

Frank_Strong
4 years 4 months ago
@DeborahInComms@mdbarber I think there are many more customers out there if PR was well defined. That’s the crux of my argument. People who get it, buy or hire PR services because they believe in them. No business case needed. However, Deborah, I think you are on to a very key point. It’s something I’ve been mulling over for a post: PR does have baggage associated with propaganda. Edward Bernays actually called it propaganda: http://youtu.be/V0OrT-8gXMs (a video well worth watching). In fact, I think that’s central to this definition debate: we are so conditioned to be hypersensitive to being called manipulating,… Read more »
mdbarber
4 years 4 months ago
@Frank_Strong@DeborahInComms Frank, first let me correct a point you made in your initial reply: “There’s no way to provide that sort of feedback in their voting mechanism in the link PRSA offers. Further, there wasn’t a way to provide that feedback when PRSA initially asked for definitions in a box” That’s simply not true. The project is using a blog format for all of its communications. There was a way to provide feedback and there still is. Each of the posts about the project has a spot for comments just as this blog does. The first post on the subject… Read more »
wabbitoid
4 years 4 months ago
@Frank_Strong @DeborahInComms @mdbarber I’m not a pro. so take what I say as you will. It seems to me that PR has bad PR, and the PR profession has no idea what to do about it. Aside from the irony of this situation, it should be obvious that what people are doing is, more or less, exactly the wrong thing to do. Escaping into “professionalism” and a cold industrial jargon has not helped anyone define the profession, much less turn the image around. The only possible solution must be the opposite: You are human. Your job is to be human… Read more »
mdbarber
4 years 4 months ago
@wabbitoid No one is ignoring you. But I think it’s really important to understand there are a lot of people trying to do what’s right, and quite frankly making some headway. Some of the folks are here in the comments and some are involved directly in the PRSA work that I outlined above. None of this is every easy. Myself, I’m grateful for the folks who are at least trying. Thanks so much for your feedback. And I do like your definition…it just doesn’t work for what I do. I’m not a face for a corporation…because corporations aren’t people but… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@DeborahInComms @Frank_Strong @mdbarber I’m not sure I agree most know what they’re buying. They think they’re buying media relations, unless they’ve had a large PR team or an external agency in the past. If it’s their first trip around the block – and it is for many, many mid-sized businesses (and I’m talking $100-$300MM companies), they think they’re buying their names in lights. We do a TON of education around what it is we do … and it’s not getting them in the NY Times.

DeborahInComms
DeborahInComms
4 years 4 months ago
@ginidietrich @Frank_Strong @mdbarber Perhaps this is a cultural difference UK vs US? Not sure. Many din’t know everything that PR can do – but you know, most people also only use 10% of the functionality of their PCs. The truth is that more and more people are grasping what it is that corporate marketing, PR and comms is there to do – and they din’t always like it, and social media is where they get to answer back. A lot of people see through the fact that we talk brand, engagement, dialogue, relationship but really it’s all measured in pounds/pence.… Read more »
mdbarber
4 years 4 months ago

@DeborahInComms Thanks Deborah. Those cultural differences are, I believe, a big part of the challenge here. I recall several discussions, even around the ethical practice of public relations, where what’s right/wrong/practiced in the US was different from guidelines around the world. It tends to make things very interesting. I know the Global Alliance was one of the 12 partners on this project but I’ll let PRSA answer specifically about PRCA. (@arthury) @ginidietrich @Frank_Strong

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago
@mdbarber Mary, you know I love you too, but we did all of this. Last year. We spent A LOT of time on it. PRSA heard us, but didn’t take the work we’d already done into consideration. I think the issue is that we’re not tying our definition to what we do and the results we bring. It’s too far and wide. With marketing, they are willing and able to say they help generate, cultivate, and convert customers. You know what? We do too. We just use different tactics to get there. That said, PRSA is guest blogging for us… Read more »
mdbarber
4 years 4 months ago
@ginidietrich As a former member of PRSA’s board I can tell you this has been a discussion for many years. (I can hear the comments now — that’s the whole problem you haven’t done it.) But we have tried and tried and this year is yet another attempt to make everyone feel as though they are part of the definition process. The difficulty comes in that “far and wide” you mentioned. For example, I don’t convert customers. I change behavior that may result in a sale but many many times it doesn’t. Say no to drugs didn’t result in sales.… Read more »
KensViews
4 years 4 months ago

@mdbarber I , Ken Jacobs, AKA @KensViews , do hereby officially volunteer @ginidietrich to serve on the PRSA committee of your choosing, and do state that I am authorized to volunteer her for said committee

mdbarber
4 years 4 months ago

@KensViews Thanks Ken! I love it. And I’m pretty sure you do have the authority to do that. I’ll let them know @ginidietrich ready, willing and hoping for some action.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@mdbarber @KensViews LMAO!!! When I was president of the Chicago chapter, my favorite thing to say to critics was, “Love your feedback! Can we count on you to serve on XYZ committee?”

That said….been there, done that. Though I really would love to see some unified messaging around what the heck it is we do. If that means I serve again, I’ll do it.

DeborahInComms
DeborahInComms
4 years 4 months ago
Gini – I don’t even know you but I think you’ve fired up an impressive debate here. Who would have thought so many people could get so excited about a definition of PR? And yet – it’s telling of a “profession” that I have seen lack belief in itself, whilst at the same time claiming to embrace so many vital components of corporate strategy and execution. A profession that I have seen undervalue itself – even whilst so many proponents will vaunt their abilities and skills. Gini – you seem to have a talent for attracting constructive polemic – perhaps… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@DeborahInComms I did – and I have. 🙂 They’re going to guest blog here tomorrow. I figured this would get people fired up (which is why I wrote it) and PRSA would respond. It definitely opens the conversation and hopefully moves us forward. We’re an industry that needs that very, very badly.

DeborahInComms
DeborahInComms
4 years 4 months ago

@ginidietrich Good for you. As long as we remember it’s PR not ER.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@DeborahInComms So funny you say that. I occasionally will say to someone on my team (who is freaking out), “Did anyone die? No? It’s OK, then.”

jacque_PR
4 years 4 months ago

Gini, just out of curiosity and going off of your above cocktail party scenario, how do you usually explain what PR is to someone not familiar with the communications industry AT ALL? Those are the people (cough, parents, cough, boyfriend) who I usually have a difficult time explaining to without their eyes glazing over!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@jacque_PR It depends on who it is and where I am. I talk mostly in results: We combine email, social media, search, and content (such as white papers and blogging) to drive new sales for our clients. And then, if they want to know more, I use a case study that talks about how much revenue or improved margins or shortened sales cycles that we’ve been responsible for doing.

trackback

[…] guest post is written by David C. Rickey, chair of the PRSA PR Defined Task Force, in response to Redefining Public Relations by Gini […]

Glenn Ferrell
4 years 4 months ago
I never heard the word “publics” until this article – is it even in the dictionary ? There are demographic, political, etc. subcategories of people that we have to communicate with. Because of our blind devotion to semantic simplicity, we used to call the set of these subcategories the “public”. We got pretty smug doing this “abstraction” thing. Fortunately for us, PRSA has ripped the cover off of this “public” thing and, to our horror, showed us that there is this entire seething Hieronymus-Bosch-like collection of separate groups inside here ! My God, we have to add an ‘S’ !!… Read more »
trackback

[…] the criticisms of these proposals have been sounded. Even the chair of the task force behind redefining public […]

GnosisArts
GnosisArts
4 years 4 months ago

The #PRDefinied initiative fails because it neglected to first ask the really hard meta-question: What does it mean to define a concept, and how do we do it?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@GnosisArts I wonder if that was part of what they did? Or if they just went for it?

GnosisArts
GnosisArts
4 years 4 months ago

 @ginidietrich I don’t think so, Gini. I think they just put together the form to gather responses, and just started asking PR pros et al. I didn’t read anywhere that a meta-discussion on definitional process was undertaken.

JGoldsborough
4 years 4 months ago
You hit the nail on the head with those definitions. No one talks like that. And if I gave one of those definitions to an exec, he’d/she’d smile, nod and cut my budget after I walked out of the room. Heading over to read the PRSA guest post now. I applaud PRSA’s effort to try and define PR, because I know they are trying to help paint PR in a better light. But I’m not sure defining PR is what’s needed here. Imagine if instead of trying to define our discipline, we focused more on the value what we do… Read more »
KensViews
4 years 4 months ago

@JGoldsborough For more than a year, PRSA has had a campaign making “The Business Case For Public Relations.” http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/BusinessCase

JGoldsborough
4 years 4 months ago

@KensViews Thanks. I will check this out. And for the record, I think this type of an approach to show business value is MUCH more important than defining PR.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
4 years 4 months ago

@JGoldsborough I agree with you. It’s a HUGE undertaking and they can’t please everyone. But these definitions tell us nothing. If we’re going to redefine the industry, let’s do it in a way that opens the conversation to getting our seat at the proverbial table.

trackback

[…] snags along the way and extensions and who knows what else. Then, three definitions appeared on @SpinSucks, and Gini’s community erupted. PRSA wrote a rebuttal in a guest post and the dissension was even […]

trackback

[…] wondering if not being specific with who the definition is meant for may help explain why Gini Dietrich with her Global Agency background sees it differently than Maddie Grant with her Corporate PR […]

trackback

[…] Redefining Public Relations by @Ginidietrich […]

trackback

[…] and schmoozing and spin. And while PRSA is trying to redefine it, my friend Gini Dietrich is calling them out, and the PRSA is responding. And other friends, like Krista Giuffi, are trying to work out what it […]

trackback

[…] posts have been written by Gini Dietrich, Frank Strong, Paul Roberts, Brian B Wagner, Anthony Rodriguez, Chris Nahil, Ken Mueller, Krista […]

opjacklucy
4 years 4 months ago
Hi Dave: Congratulations on taking part in this discussion on the quest for a definition of PR by 13 PR organizations. You note at one point that you are “trying to keep the Alabama legislature happy” while also heading the “PR Defined Task Force.” You are SVP-communications of the Birmingham Business Alliance. Birmingham has a big PR problem these days following the New York Times story Sunday Feb. 18 on the bankruptcy of Jefferson County, Ala., of which Birmingham is the biggest city. That city is called “a monument to urban blight” where “a quarter of the people live below… Read more »
trackback

[…] been reading this blog, then you’re informed about the recent attempts and failure to define public relations by the governing body, PRSA. Prior to PRSA sharing Friday it would keep the discussion and defining […]

trackback

[…] you’ve been reading this blog, then you’re informed about the recent attempts and failure to define public relations by the governing body, PRSA. Prior to PRSA sharing Friday it would keep the discussion and defining […]

wpDiscuz
[postmatic_subscribe_widget]