Friday, March 2, 2012

PR people define their profession, jargon ensues

Image via this blog
A PR person I follow on Twitter shared this NY Times article about how the Public Relations Society of America decided its profession had a PR problem.

The initiative, known as Public Relations Defined, began in November and drew widespread interest, along with not a small amount of sniping, snide commentary and second-guessing. 
The complaints grew loud enough to produce a response from an executive of the organization that was leading the effort, David C. Rickey, who described the criticism thusly: “Nothing more clearly illustrates the reason why the profession hasn’t arrived at a ‘de facto’ definition in more than a century of existence.”
Indeed, the attempt to croudsource a definition of what PR people do, among PR people themselves, generated no fewer than 927 definitions in about two weeks!

The PRSA somehow pared it down to three finalists:

¶ “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.”
Yes, they're jargony. As someone who preaches the religion of plain language to clients every goddamn day of my working life, I am both amused and horrified that this is the clearest my PR friends could be about what they do.

They voted on it, and chose the middle one. But I'll bet my readers could do better. Are you up for it?


  1. 'it is what it is' is such a tired phrase. coming up with a better phrase - that could be the starting point for their campaign?


  2. Public relations specialists try to help their clients become better known and/or better thought-of by the general public.