Can we please stop asking, ‘What is PR?’

A plea to end the wearisome 100-year dialogue of how to define the profession. Is it really that complicated?

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I’m disheartened that people today still ask the same tired question that swirled around the profession when I started three decades ago: “What is PR?”

The first definition of public relations surfaced nearly 100 years ago, and its practitioners have been in a state of chronic paranoia and self-psychoanalysis ever since. Public relations is the Woody Allen of business professions.

Here are three questions that people should stop asking:

1. Is PR a profession?

Of course it is a profession. The only people who wonder whether it’s a profession are the people actually in the profession. Calm down. Yes, people take you seriously—except when you ask this question!

2. What is PR?

Edward Bernays, a colorful bloke we generally accept as the founder of public relations, defined PR in the early 1900s as:

“… a management function that tabulates public attitudes, defines the policies, procedures, and interests of an organization followed by executing a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”

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