PR is little more than finding someone to write about a client. Even in the age of social media.
Those are the words of Haydn Shaughnessy in Forbes
magazine—and for many, they’re fighting words. Here’s the gist of what he says:
“At its core PR practice has barely changed in the era of social. At its core!
“It is still the job of a PR person to find a writer who will interview a client or write about the client or product, and to control that process as much as possible by, for example, sitting in on interviews, seeking out writers who will be favorable, offering exclusives, and attempting to frame the story for the writer. End of story.
“Some PR companies have gone as far as creating leverage for themselves in social channels but even so they seek the legitimation that comes with mainstream publishing. That simply has not changed.”
Shaughnessy’s column is a response to the Public Relations Society of America unveiling of the final three definitions of public relations, of which one will become the definition:
• 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.
“The candidates,” writes Shaughnessy, “are dire and damaging.” And he doesn’t “believe one minute that PR firms believe that they are creating mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
Shaughnessy offered what he thinks is a modern definition of PR: It “is about trying to help companies adapt to new realities.”
(Read his full post at Forbes.)
Shaughnessy isn’t the only person to take issue with PRSA’s candidate definitions—although unlike other commentaries, his attack goes to the very core of the profession—with PR exec Gini Dietrich saying “the definitions suck
Most of the comments to Gini’s piece echo her frustration, as do many comments on a PR Daily story
about the definitions.
Arthur Yann, vice president of public relations for PRSA, said the organization knew the definitions would likely be criticized.
"In the profession's existence, there's never been a consensus definition, which is why we're still having this conversation today," he explained. "Still, these definitions are true to the research, and accurately reflect the way in which public relations professionals described what it is they do for a living."
Yann added that, "To be honest, individuals who don't participate in the process but object to the result are a constant challenge in galvanizing
our profession. There was two-week period for public comment on the
draft definitions, and opinions like these were welcome and would have
been considered as the final candidate definitions were debated and
Curiously, PRSA’s Immediate Past Chairperson Rosanna Fiske told The New York Times
in December that a new definition will arm her with something to tell her parents when they ask about her job.
“My parents, for the longest time, have been trying to figure out what I do for a living,” she said.
Question is, will anyone outside of the communications professional be able to understand: “Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals,” or any of the other candidate definitions?