What I Learned From Defining Public Relations

Posted: March 2, 2012 in PR Adventure, PR Theories
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PR word cloud

I was very excited to find out the final voting result for PRSA’s “Redefining PR” campaign. Actually my first reaction was “I won!” since I selected the one that received the most votes.

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

I did put in a bit thought when I was reading the three finalists. I chose this one based on my own understanding of PR.

First, I believe public relations is a communication process. No matter how much this field has changed, we are still trying to communicate with publics about an organization. On my very first class as a PR student at Michigan State University, my instructor gave us a simpler definition of PR: “Communicating accurate image of an organization to the public.”That was a definition I strongly agree with, and the one from PRSA included the meanings it had.

Second, I am a firm believer that effective public relations will create mutual benefits for both parties (organizations and publics/stakeholders). Good PR should not be manipulative. Instead, it will make people “want to do business with you”. I learned that from another professor at MSU. Starbuck’s campaign “Every Love” for Valentine’s Day this year was a great example. Starbucks produced three excellent and moving videos about sharing love via its products. It is not just boasting about how good the coffee is, but educating people how much difference you can make with a simple cup of coffee.I was amazed by the great amount of emotional comments and stories shared on Facebook and Twitter by Starbuck’s fans. In the era of new media, great PR achieves communication between companies and consumers, and between consumers and consumers. This is how PR builds “mutually beneficial” relationships.

I had a hard time to explain what PR is to my families and friends when I decided to become a PR professional 3 years ago. I am still trying to improve my interpretation whenever I have a chance to tell them about my passion for this profession. I think what’s even more important in this PRSA campaign of redefining PR is that it gave all of us, the PR pros, a moment to think and a chance to reflect. No matter what definition in the future we use, we will be grateful for this process because it encourages us to get better at what we do, and make a contribution to the growth and evolution of this amazing industry.

Image Credit: NYTimes.com

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