Blog written by Sydney Ayers, APR

A recent column by Maureen Hall in Ad Age discussed the fact that the words “public relations” had, unfortunately, lost their meaning.  I would pose that they didn’t so much lose their meaning as we haven’t really safeguarded it.

Too frequently a client prospect will come to us and say, “We need some PR” when what they really mean is, “We need some media relations.”  Instead of taking the opportunity to fully educate these prospects regarding the full depth and breadth of public relations, we say, “Sure.  We’ll leverage our contacts and get you great coverage we’ll measure in impressions and ad equivalency.”

When are we going to stop letting everyone else – from Washington lobbyists to Hollywood publicists, ad professionals to interactive specialists – define our job? 

Our friends Cutlip, Center and Broom tell us, “Public relations is the practice of building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its various publics.”  Nothing in that definition says the only accepted tactic for achieving this is media relations. You know why?  Because it just isn’t.

Is media relations important?  Yes, it is.  But so are community outreach, special events, employee communications, issues management, crisis communications, word-of-mouth marketing, social media and other public relations tactics that enhance brand and protect organizational reputation.

When prospects come to us, we should not be afraid to help them broaden their definition of public relations.  It certainly would go a long way to helping us better position our clients, our profession, our firms, and ourselves.