Campaign to define ‘public relations’ delayed

The Public Relations Society of America pushed back the deadlines for its ‘Public Relations Defined’ campaign, citing the ‘unprecedented response and interest.’

You’ll have to wait ’til next year for a new definition of “public relations.”

The Public Relations Society of America pushed back the timeline of its Public Relations Defined campaign, which aims to crowd-source a new meaning of the term. Participants entered their submissions for a definition online, from Nov. 21 through Dec. 2, after which time the organization collected the entries and began whittling them down to determine a group of finalists to present to its 12 partner organizations for the campaign.

According to the original schedule, finalists, for which the public would vote, were to be unveiled in December after the partner organizations offered their feedback. The PR trade group had planned to announce the new definition by the end of 2011. Instead, it’s shooting for an unveiling in late January.

“Because of that unprecedented response and interest, PRSA’s Definition of Public Relations Task Force is taking additional time to analyze the data collected,” said PRSA CEO and chair Rosanna Fiske in a blog post. “We are also providing more time for our 12 global partners to offer their feedback.”

The campaign drew 927 definitions and 15,688 submitted words. The most popular words are “organization” and “public.” You can view the full list below.

Finalists will be posted to the PRSA website for a public vote in early- to mid-January, according to Fiske.

Keith Trivitt, the associate director of public relations at PRSA, said the organization was encouraged by the level of international interest and the number of responses it received.

“At the outset, we were hoping for the project to initiate a spirited debate within the profession about the very concept of PR and what its future role and value will look like,” Trivitt told PR Daily. “From the responses we have received thus far, it appears that has been achieved and then some.”

Trivitt said the decision to push back the timeline is twofold.

“It allows our partners to have a greater say in the development of the candidate definitions and in the scope of the initiative,” he explained.

Pushing back the timelines also ensures that the announcement of the final definition won’t be overshadowed by the holidays.

The PRSA has attempted to update the definition of “public relations” twice in the last 10 years. The term’s current definition, forged in 1982, is: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

Here are the 20 most-submitted words:

• “organization” (present in 409 submissions)
• “public” (387)
• “communication” (292)
• “relationship(s)” (271)
• “stakeholders” (176)
• “create” (175)
• “mutual” (164)
• “understand” (159)
• “build” (159)
• “audiences” (154)
• “inform” (151)
• “management” (129)
• “brand” (124)
• “company” (120)
• “business” (119)
• “people” (107)
• “engages” (97)
• “client” (94)
• “awareness” (93)
• “benefit” (84)


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