There has been much blog debate about PRSA's efforts to redefine public relations, and lots of dialog on Twitter (check out the hash tag #prdefined to track the conversations). And it is not just insular industry chatter, e.g. the NY Times covered the effort a couple of the months ago (see Redefining Public Relations in an Age of Social Media).
I guess it is like the cobbler's kids that don't have shoes – us PR folks are supposed to be great communicators, yet can sometimes struggle when we are the client. The question can be a lightening rod, too, and asking it – as well as expecting an answer that everyone can agree upon – is not easy.
I had been sitting quietly on the sidelines until I got an email from Heidi Sullivan of the Cision blog. She asked me late in the day last Friday on my thoughts, for a post she was working on – I decided that I was tired of procrastinating about the topic and came up with something I thought was simple and to the point:
“I define public relations as the practice that helps companies, people and brands express themselves in the best possible way. It is about helping them communicate – directly, and with and through intermediaries – to advance their objectives.”
Perhaps it is misguided and overly ambitious to expect everyone to agree on a single definition for such a diverse field. You can't help but think that the result will be a camel, that is a horse built by a committee.
But I am glad that I finally gave it some thought and responded, and urge others who have not had their voices heard to chime in too.