What's the definition of public relations?
Wait . . . don't answer. You don't have to. Because the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is coming up with the definitive definition of public relations. And they are serious about it. Serious enough to create a "Task Force," to study the problem. Which is pretty damned serious.
If you're a little serious, you put together a work team. If you're really serious, you form a committee. Only if you're super, duper serious, do you convene a Task Force. And that's just what PRSA did.
Someone had to come up with a definition, I guess, because there does seem to be a lot of confusion about what public relations is supposed to do, or be.
I'm sure it hasn't been an easy task. When PRSA is done with it, maybe they can solve an argument my wife and I always have, and come up with a definitive definition for "foreplay." We seem to be miles apart on what it means.
Anyway, here's the story:
For the past two months, PRSA's "Definition of Public Relations Task Force," or DPRTF, has reviewed more than 1000 submissions, looking for the perfect definition of PR. DPRTF (pronounced: DEPERTFER) has narrowed it down to three choices that you can vote on.
Those three choices are:
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.
Whoa!! Them's a whole lot of fancy words!! Of course, that's what happens any time you assign a "Task Force" to something. You almost always end up with more words than you need.
But if you read each definition closely, they all pretty much say the same thing, don't they? It seems as if the goal of the Task Force (I wonder if they had badges and windbreakers and other cool stuff like that) was to use as many words as possible to say as little as possible.
To that end, why bother voting on which one is the best? When they're all this bad, it's like voting in the Republican primary.
Why not just save everyone the time and trouble, and combine all three of them, since they all say the same thing? That would give you a whole bunch of words that say nothing!
In fact, I'll save the PRSA Task Force some work, and do it for them.
From now on, the official definition of PR will be:
"Public relations is a strategic communication process of engagement that manages the function of researching, communicating and collaboration between organizations and publics to build mutually beneficial relationships and achieve mutual understanding and realize goals."
There you have it. Now you can stop worrying about the definition and just get that damn press release out. The client wanted it an hour ago.
And as for the Task Force, if you could turn your attention to defining "foreplay," I would greatly appreciate it. I'm sure you can even use some of the same words you used for the definition of PR: mutually beneficial, collaboration, mutual understanding . . . those would all seem to fit.
(Read PRSA's response to the criticism over its choice of candidate definitions.)
Steve Crescenzo (@crescenzo ) is a popular speaker, seminar leader and consultant. He blogs at Corporate Hallucinations.com.