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Defining Public Defining Public Relations

Public Relations (PR) has evolved throughout its existence to fit numerous business functions and intents. Some companies refer to PR as the department in charge of publicity and gaining attention. This definition alone can have several meanings. One meaning could be the intent to gain free publicity and attention through news and word of mouth. Another meaning could include the placement of media such as print, radio, and television. Sometimes media buying is handled through the marketing department, or as a joint venture between the two departments. These examples help explain the ambiguity behind the definition of PR. This enigma has attracted much attention from practitioners in the field, and a few main opinions have emerged as to PRs purpose (Strong, 2011). The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has attempted to define PR as an official definition for the industry. To do that, the PRSA created a loose definition that could be applied to many widely held concepts of the function of PR. A PRSA National Assembly decreed the official definition of PR to be, public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other (2011, para 3). The PRSA adds further clarity to this definition be explaining the word organization was chosen to convey the idea that PR is a concept that can be used by many organizations not just businesses. The word publics is used to include every stakeholder of an organization, not just the target markets. The PRSA also stresses the function of PR to anticipate and interpret any public opinion that may effect the organization, counsel management about the ramifications of policy decisions, and implement programs designed to influence or change public policy (PRSA, 2011). Traditionally, the definition of PR was to act as a liaison between the press or the public and the organization (PRSA, 2011). The function of PR in this definition was to gain mentions of the

Defining Public organization in the media (Cohen, 2011). Since, the definition has evolved to include audience engagement and relationship building tactics (PRSA, 2011). These new functions of PR have aligned it more with the marketing and communications efforts of an organization. The integration of digital marketing and social media has fallen to PR to manage; however, these

mediums blur the lines between marketing and PR more than any other medium used in the past (Cohen, 2011). Another commonly perceived function of PR has to do with the method and results achieved. The concept is best demonstrated through the use of an analogy. Marketing occurs when a man tells a woman he is an excellent lover; the woman does not believe him. PR causes a friend of the woman to tell her the man is an excellent lover; the woman does believe him (Shankman, 2010). This crude representation of the function of PR demonstrates its ability to persuade the public of a message through a medium of authority. As previously mentioned, the PRSA considers influencing or changing public policy to be a function of PR. Influencing or changing public policy can be construed as government approval or support of the organization or its industry. This is an example of this particular definition of PR. Several similarities exist between the various definitions as well as distinct differences. The definition of PR as defined by the PRSA is intended to be broad and all encompassing. In the age of the Internet and social media, PRs role has expanded to include audience engagement and participation. The definition of PR to influence the public indirectly through the manipulation of a medium with authority is a focused description of the function of PR. This description may incorporate some concepts used in PR, but it does not accurately state the entire definition. Perhaps the best definition of PR is the actions conducted by an organization to interact, engage, and build relationships with stakeholders with the intent to improve or maintain the perception of

Defining Public the organization to those stakeholders.

Defining PR is an extremely controversial topic in the industry, many have sought to define it and many more have disagreed with those definitions. Perhaps this is because PRs main purpose is public interaction, and society is constantly changing (Seitel, 2007). Therefore, PR must change alongside society. Perhaps the best definition of PR is in its name, public relations.

Defining Public References Cohen, H. (March 8, 2011). 31 Public Relations Definitions. heidicohen.com. Retrieved from http://heidicohen.com/public-relations-definition/.

Public Relations Society of America. (2011). Public Relations Defined: PRSA's Widely Accepted Definition. Retrieved from http://www.prsa.org/aboutprsa/publicrelationsdefined/. Seitel, F. (2007) The Practice of Public Relations, Tenth Edition. Prentice Hall, Inc. Retrieved from the University of Phoenixs materials section. Shankman, P. (2010). Definition of PR. HARO. Retrieved from http://www.helpareporter.com/. Strong, F. (March 15, 2011). Is a fuzzy definition of PR a case of lousy PR? Ragan.com. Retrieved from http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/Is_a_fuzzy_definition_of_PR_ a_case_of_lousy_PR_42767.aspx.