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Defining Public Relations
The ability to adhere to one worldwide definition of public relations is a challenging and one might say impossible task, and has concerned many public relations specials and scholars alike. They seem to agree that while individuals' actual definition of public relations might vary in strategy and technique, the end goal is always the same, to influence public opinion favorably for one's organization.
Public Relations in My Own Words
Public Relations deals with a broad range of strategies and methods, therefore, it is not easily defined. In my opinion, a good definition of public relations would include to communicate not only an institutions main purpose and mission, but to keep the institution involved in the public opinions reaction to the institutions strategy in doing do. This paper examines several experts' definitions of public relations to see what the differences are among them while identifying what the constant theme among them is.
Edward Bernays Defining Public Relations
Edward Bernays defined Public Relations as "information given to the public, persuasion directed at the public to modify attitudes and actions, and efforts to integrate attitudes and actions of an institution with its publics and of publics with those of that institution" (1923). This is one definition that is fairly broad compared to the numerous variations that are worldwide. Concentrating on persuasion of attitudes is a major aspect of public Relations. It is imperative to have a favorable public opinion of an institution. Public opinion equals customer opinion. It is well known that in order to keep your customers happy and continuing to invest in your goods and services, an institution must keep their best interest in mind. Through efforts such as advertising and marketing, an institution must convey their main purpose or mission to their customer so they have an understanding of exactly what they stand for. It does a great job of pointing out the two main components of public relations, both internal and external communications. Not only does public relations help communicate to an institution's external public, but it helps keep their mission in line with their internal workforce. It is important to keep one's staff up to date on an institution's long and short term goals that might get clouded or overlooked with the rigors of the daily grind. This is imperative to keep the institution running on track towards their common goal.
Fraser P. Seitel Defining Public Relations
According to Fraser P. Seitel "public relations is a planned process to influence public opinion, through sound character and proper performance, based on mutually satisfactory two-way communication" (2004). It is clear through this definition that the most important aspect of public relations is public opinion. An institution must take into account what the public wants, and how to achieve by best means possible. Communication with their public in relation to their expectation of that institution is just as important as the institution communicating their goals in relation to their goods and services offered to the public. Holding a positive public opinion is imperative to keep a company in good standing. That being said, if your public doesn't have a favorable opinion of you, you can rest assured they do not have a very strong faith in your institution and most likely will not be holding relations with it. The way in which an institution reacts to public opinion and adapts to it through changes and structural reforms can help bridge the gap between the two groups. Since public opinion goes hand in hand with good public relations, it is crucial to have a well developed public relations department that is current in two way communication between your institution and the public.
Defined by Lattimore, Baskin, Heiman, Toth and Van Leuven
Public Relations: The Profession and the Practice, authored by Lattimore, Baskin, Heiman, Toth and Van Leuven provides the definition, "Public relations is a leadership and management function that helps achieve organizational objectives, define philosophy, and facilitate organizational change. Public relations practitioners communicate with all relevant internal and external publics to develop positive relationships and to create consistency between organizational goals and societal expectations. Public relations practitioners develop, execute, and evaluate organizational programs that promote the exchange of influence and understanding among an organization's constituent parts and publics" (2004). Shown in the lengthy statement trying to define the field, public relations is such a board term because it covers so many different types of institutions; Institutions that vary drastically such aspects as size, purpose, societal impact, social responsibility, as well as degree of public visibility. The strategies and techniques put into a public relations campaign are dependant of all these factors, thus, making it difficult to pin down an exact definition of what they aim to accomplish and how. For example, a Congressman's public relations specialist might focus on different aspects of a campaign than a pet food company's would. This proves the field of public relations is board and varies dramatically over the different types of businesses and institutions worldwide.
Compare and Contrast
While the three definitions I chose to compare are different, there are some similarities. It is clear by reading all of them that in order to run a successful public relations campaign, the lines of communication must be open between the institution and the public. A favorable public opinion is needed to keep a company running smoothly, and researching and strategizing what the problems are and how they can be solved between the two entities, is the main purpose of public relations. These definitions differ in the fact that they do not settle on one strategy or rule of thumb on how one goes about achieving this harmony between institution and public opinion. This is where individual research comes into play for the public relations specialist at hand to determine what actions are imperative to reach this balance.
Public relations (2007). Retrieved on 10/14/2007 from:
Seitel, F. P. (2004). The practice of public relations. Ch. 1. pp. 2 3, 11.
Lattimore, D., Baskin, O., Heiman, S. T., Toth, E. L., & Van Leuven, J. K. (2004). Public Relations: The profession and the practice. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill
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"Definition Of Public Relations." 123HelpMe.com. 30 Jan 2015