And the new definition of ‘public relations’ is…


“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” This is the current definition of the public relations profession; however, it has become a bit outdated in the past decade. This is a situation that is common for most media professions, but few actually change their definition. It makes sense though, as typical business models have changed along with audiences, it must to adapt to its constituents.  

There hasn’t been a change to the public relations definition since 1982. Since then there have been significant, and obvious, changes such as the internet and all of the communication mediums that come along with it: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. These things changed the relationship between the members of the public and those who communicate with them. Additionally, they brought new terms that are often used in conjunction with, or in place of public relations, such as buzz marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, and earned media (NY Times).

So public relations representatives have announced they are going to change their definition, but what’s it going to be. That is actually still to be determined, because there is going to be a crowd-sourcing model to let the public decide. Starting today, Monday, there will be a website where people can submit their suggestions, open until December 2nd. PR professionals will narrow them down to 3 based on the suggestions, and then open it back up to the public to vote on what they think works best. They plan to announce the new definition by the end of the year.

This is a great example of the reality of convergence culture, which displays that it is not only organizations that must respond to the audience and give them some control, but professions as a whole. Although it is a small gesture to its “audience,” to allow them to create their dictionary definition, it is necessary if it is going to have any significance in business models going forward. While it may make those who work in PR a bit nervous, it may actually be eye opening and help guide them to what they should actually be doing. Even better yet, “it must be seen as an emerging new way of giving meaning to one’s work and career in the contemporary new media (Deuze, p.236).”

~Stephanie Smith


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