The Challenging Definition of Modern PR

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December 20th, 2012  |   | 
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The impending holidays are a time to mix and mingle, reunite with past friends, attend the corporate gatherings of your significant other and get together with the extended family members you have successfully avoided all year long. Along with these get-togethers comes the clinking of glasses, the munching of party mix and the inevitable question – “So, what do you do?”

For public relations professionals who spend their days crafting key messages and training others how to effectively answer media questions, this should be a no-brainer. However, many of us in the PR sector find this to be a tough question to answer. You see, what we actually do as PR professionals can be very difficult to explain. Part of what makes this so complicated is that there really isn’t a clear definition within the industry itself.

For example, last month, PR Newswire asked its audience to complete the following sentence: PR is __________. Based on the varied and insightful responses, the company created an infographic (very fitting for the PR crowd) outlining the responses. Answers included: complex, social, building bridges, constant and digital. With such a cornucopia of responses it’s easy to see why we have such a tough time defining ourselves. The fact is none of these answers are right, or wrong.

PR is all of these things and more. As the industry continues to delve into the social sphere we become more than relationship managers and key message developers, we are evolving into community managers and digital space developers.

Perhaps Forbes was right last year when the magazine declared “PR is dead.” After the sensational headline, the journalist clarified by stating that “PR, in the traditional sense, is dead.” I have to say that I find this to be a hopeful and positive statement. That is because to me traditional PR is siloed. It is media relations and message development and little else. Just looking at the infographic from PR Newswire shows what a creative community we are, and outlines the many different ways we can be involved with companies and brands.

Although it certainly won’t make the definition any easier, I look forward to the industry continuing to grow and evolve and reshape itself. After all, what dentist or teacher or accountant can say that? I will proudly raise my glass this holiday season and explain for the umpteenth time that no, I do not just plan parties.

So, what’s your definition?

Source: PR Newswire

One Comment

  • Melody Gaukel says:

    This is an interesting question because not only does each person has their own definition, each organization does too. I sit on a PR advisory counsel for a post secondary program and each year we go through this debate as we look at the courses and objectives of the program. In a room of 10+ communications professionals in a wide range of industries and organizations our definitions all vary somewhat but one thing we’ve always agreed on is that the ability of a good communicator is to tell a compelling story, that has a point (or call to action), and can impact an organizations goals. How you get there and how you tell the story – that’s what is always changing.