PR:Defining The Undefinable

We’ve all heard of it, everything from that annoying spokesman uttering those oh so predictable words “my client/company deeply regrets incident and/or response to their audience/customers, to helping keep the work environment at happy and productive place to be.

Guesses anyone?

Even if the brainyacts  amongst you did manage to deduce the correct answer from the oh so cryptic title. You may still be wondering what exactly is PR?

Before entering the mysterious world of public relations, I studied the slacks arch nemesis, journalism here at Solent. So, when my tutor first asked what is PR? I confidently asserted its about the media. What followed was not a sudden award ceremony with the tutor proclaiming he’s got it in one, here’s the Masters go forth into the world of PR, but rather an air of expectancy and a swift move to rid me of those oh so simple views.

Unfortunately, much like beauty, the answer is in the eye of the beholder. Take for example ååååthe blog of, Heidi Cohen, who undertook the task of gaining no less than 31, definitions from practitioners of the trade.:

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics 
adapt mutually to each other. Public Relations broadly applies to organizations as a collective group, not just a business; and publics encompass the variety of different stakeholders.  PRSA (Public Relations Society of America]” Or if you prefer:

“Traditionally, PR has focused on cultivating the media and celebrities, who’ve the reach and credibility, to tell the stories of an agency’s clients. However, in the new media world, where digital conversations among peers can capture a higher Google ranking than a main stream media publication, who influences opinion has been expanded. At the end of the day, PR is still about building relationships with the people who can convey that third party endorsement. That person just may surprise you because it could be you!”  Toby Bloomberg – Bloomberg Marketing/Diva Marketing.

Now imagine that disagreement spread over both the theoretical and professional world and you’ll have a pretty good idea, as to what those trying to define their beloved subject, face.

If you take a glimpse at a journal or two, you’re certain to find academics and practitioners looking to literally become the defining figure in the field, doggedly arguing that PR is more significant than such subjects as marketing, or vice versa. Or how can we measure the success of a PR campaign? Is it simply through media attention, or must professionals take a more balanced view?

And this is just the tip of a rather large and at times challenging PR iceberg.

So, if the definition of the subject has all the solidarity of an ice cream in 30° weather, how could you possibly study it?

Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, flexibility is key. With so much confusion amongst potential employers as to what this thing is, you have to be ready to listen to what the clients want and then, politely inform them that it’s not as simple as they thought, and here’s what you can actually do for them.


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