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Public Relations Defined

PRSA and Partners Initiative to Modernize the Definition of Public Relations

Michael Kelly

on 4 March 2018

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Transcript of Public Relations Defined

“organization” (present in 388 submissions)
“public” (373)
“communication” (280)
“relationship(s)” (260)
“stakeholders” (172)
“create” (170)
“mutual” (158)
“understand” (153)
“build” (152)
“audiences” (147)
“inform” (144)
“management” (124)
“brand” (119)
“company” (116)
“business” (112)
“people” (100)
“engages” (94)
“client” (92)
“awareness” (88)
“maintain” (81)
Organization 388
Public 373
Communication 280
Relationships 260
Stakeholders 172
Create 170
Build 152
Audiences 147
Inform 144
Management 124
Brand 119
Company 116
Business 112
People 100
Engages 94
Client 92
Awareness 88
Maintain 81
A GigaMarketing PhDiagram(sm)
mkelly@techtel.com 510-435-5455
After 12 days of submissions, the following
are the 20 most submitted words to the
“Public Relations Defined” initiative:
These words can be organized a number of ways to make more sense. Here's one way:

First: Sort into 'Subject - Predicate - Object'
Second: Arrange into Possible Statements
For example:
'Public Relations is the management of communication between organizations and people to Create, Build, Inform and Maintain Relationships that build mutual awareness, understanding, brand and engagement with Publics, Stakeholders, Audiences and Clients.'

Or a simpler form, for example:
'PR manages communications between people, organizations and their publics to build relationships.'
Pros and Cons of this Subject-Predicate-Object approach, also called Triples:

It added sense (meaning) to the word list
It identified a missing element: Purpose
It is in a form called Triples (subject - predicate - object) where theory and software is available. It also has ties to semantics.
It can be turned into a network diagram, like a concept map.
These alternate formats allow for checking for inconsistant or missing elements in definitions
Subject - Predicate - Object are well-known structures for people trained in communications.
It can be taught to communication and PR people, who could then teach it to other parts of the organization, eg. Marketing, IT, etc.

Others may arrange the words into the columns differently, changing the meaning
It reflects the limitations of the original comments and thinking that went into them (e.g. no mention of Purpose)
It reflects the biases of the thinking that went into sorting by Subject and Object
(Could they be reversed? E.g. could publics use PR to build relations with our organization? This is what happens when customers create a Users Group to influence the vendor.)
It may reflect hidden connections, such as that 'a business is an organization', that might not be known or agreed to by others.

Overcome the Cons by using the Triples to do a first attempt to make sense, then look for inconsistencies, missing elements or disagreements on meaning.
Use it to look for hierarchies, for example, an organization is a general term for business, government, non-profit, etc. If the general term applies, then consider using it to simplify the description, leaving out the components or variations or synonyms.
Always ask: What is the purpose? Why do we build relationships? What value is this for the organization and its publics?
A second approach can be applied from GigaMarketing/GigaCommunications: apply a Why - What - How hierarchy to the new definition, clarifying, not confusing the three elements. See GigaMarketing.net for more information.
PRSA and Partners

After preparing this example, I happen to read a description by Jim Grunig:
PR is: '...the management of communications between an organization and its publics.' (Grunig later added a second sentence:) 'The purpose of public relations is to build relationships between the organization and its publics.' Whoa!! Pretty Close to this
Hey, one last step - even though it wasn't a top 20 word, let's add a 'Purpose' to connect PR to Organizational Objectives!

"PR manages communications between people, organizations and their publics to build relationships upon which to build mutual value."

Now return to the Diagram to see how you would use it to make the perfect definition of Modern PR. Keep the words simple. Don't add other words, like 'strategic'.
PRSA and Partners 'Public Relations Defined' Initiative
Analyzing the New Definition Process:
James Grunig was right! Thirty years later, his definition has become our definition
eg: Build Relationships or Create Understanding
Click Forward for Pros and Cons of This Subject-Predicate-Object Approach
Oops, these didn't seem to fit. They seem bigger than the subject-predicate-object categories, So we put them on top.
GigaMarketing.net is Home Base for New Thinking, New Communication
and New Execution of Marketing

us at: http://gigamarketing.net/
Subject - Predicate - Object
There were 927 definitions submitted from Nov. 21 through Dec. 2, and three were chosen as finalists. They were:

¶ “Public relations is the management function of researching, communicating and collaborating with publics to build mutually beneficial relationships.”

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

¶ “Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals.”

Comments about the three finalist definitions were accepted from Jan. 11 through 23. Voting was held from Feb. 13 through 26.
On March 2, 2012
The winner was announced...

The winner!
Which is pretty close to what the Subject-Predicate-Object analysis predicted.

Winning Definition.

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

Vs. Our Predicted Definition:
"PR manages communications between people, organizations and their publics to build relationships upon which to build mutual value."

The differences are small, but interesting:
the winner dropped 'Management' and Added 'Process'
the winner added 'strategic' which we specifically excluded (we felt that 'strategic' is, like 'influential' or 'trusted', not to be claimed, but is awarded by others.) It's like calling what you do 'important'.
The winner dropped 'between people' and left 'between organizations'.

Alike - both added the purpose of PR:
Both had equivalent statements, 'build mutual value' and 'build mutually beneficial' which we had suggested be added to establish the purpose of PR.
The second place option had the additional concept of purpose perhaps better defining 'mutual benefit/mutual value' further into 'mutual understanding and realize goals' which I think should have been added to make the final definition even better.

And that brings up the issue of whether the winner should have been synthesized from the three best definitions rather than having one entry, representing less than half of the votes, declared winner. Maybe next time ...
% of Vote:
One final comment: the winner bears an amazing similarity with the definitions put forward by James Grunig decades ago. Apparantly, it has been adopted and shows up in this research as the newly accepted definition.
Sr. Fellow of Society for New Communications Research
Michael F Kelly
CEO Techtel Corporation
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