Defining Public Relations

Defining Public Relations

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Defining Public Relations

What is Public Relations (PR)? PR is difficult to define because it encompasses so many areas and today has developed into a multi-million dollar industry influencing all aspects of our lives (Adams et al, 1999). However, it is important to be able to compare and contrast the various definitions in order to have a complete understanding of what public relations is and how it is used. The public is a large population to consider, making it easier to understand why it is so difficult to define PR. Along with a large population come many perceptions, beliefs, ideas, and opinions, all influences on PR. I define public relations as the act/s used by individuals, corporations, and groups to influence ones opinions and/or decisions about a product, idea, person/s, company/s, etc. and the public. Robert L. Heath defines PR as ‘functions of management/supervisors that foster an organization's ability to strategically listen to, appreciate, and respond to those persons who's mutually beneficial relationships with the organization are necessary if it is to achieve its missions and values (Health, 2007)'.
In 1950 PRSA enacted the first "Professional Standards for the Practice of Public Relations," followed by the current Code of Ethics which includes six core values and six code provisions. The core values are "Advocacy, Honesty, Expertise, Independence, Loyalty, and Fairness and code provisions are "Free Flow of Information, Competition, Disclosure of Information, Safeguarding Confidences, Conflicts of Interest, and Enhancing the Profession." Even with these standards defining PR is difficult and organizations struggle with public perception of PR. Human nature influences choices for both organizations as well as the public. These standards have helped in defining the outcome of PR and the field endeavoring to create a professional profession ensuring what is relayed to the public and that it be ethical, truthful, and accurate.
There are many definitions of Public Relations and the basic definition is typically the same. However, interpretation of how PR is conducted plays a role in the outcome of many definitions of PR. For example, PR can be positive or negative depending on if the information is skewed with the intent to persuade in a positive or negative manner. Politicians use PR to influence voters to vote for them and to make their opponent look bad. PR encompasses so many areas and includes the public which are both internal and external (Seitel, 2004).

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Organizations have internal public including employees and external would be the public, potential customers, competitors, and vendors. I used the following three sources and their PR definitions of public relations so that I would have a base to compare and contrast the varying definitions. The following sources of PR definitions and their definitions follow:

Free Management Library
"Public relations includes ongoing activities to ensure the overall company has a strong public image. Public relations activities include helping the public to understand the company and its products. Often, public relations are conducted through the media that is, newspapers, television, magazines, etc. As noted above, public relations is often considered as one of the primary activities included in promotions (Free Management Library, 2007)'.

Entrepreneur.com
"Using the news or business press to carry positive stories about your company or your products; cultivating a good relationship with local press representatives (Entrepreneur.com, (2007)".

Building Brands.com.
'Public Relations practice is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics (Building Brands.com, 2007).'

Each of the three definitions basically state the same in that PR is the activities conducted by a company to create goodwill and mutual understanding between the organization and its public conducted through media such as; newspapers, television, radio, magazines, just to name a few. The definitions though worded slightly differently gave the same definition. Free Management Library goes a sep further and actually defines the activities used for PR, whereas Entrepreneur.com states the use of the ‘press' only, and BuildingBrands.com doesn't specify PR activities of PR at all. It is easy to see with vague definitions much is left to interpretation on the actual PR process. Additionally organizations define PR differently due to their views, goals, and opinions which include their interpretation of ethics and morality standards. PR also encompasses many areas and includes both the internal and external public and with vague definitions PR has an open forum for activities in the process for success (Seitel, 2004). If an organization lacks in these areas PR can take on a direction of persuading the public based on PR that is biased, not true, and/or even unethical, all goal driven. This can be intentional and even unintentional depending on how the public perceives the PR.
The public is a mix of diversity in thought, opinion, ethics, education, etc. and each impact how PR is perceived that it makes defining PR very difficult. Public interest can not be predicted which also makes PR hard to define; there are just too many unpredictable outcomes. We see the vast areas of PR and how interpretations and implications influence the public and how then public interpretation and be skewed or swayed in the direction the organization and/or PR intends and why it is so very difficult to define.
What is Public Relations? Now I would define Public Relations as "the ongoing planned and sustained activities and efforts to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and/or person and its publics ensuring the overall company and/or person has a strong public image (Building Brands.com, 2007). Often PR uses the news or business press to carry positive stories about the company and/or person cultivating a good relationship with local press representatives and its public (Building Brands.com, 2007). Public relations activities include helping the public to understand the company and its products and/or person conducted through the media that is, newspapers, television, magazines, business press, etc. and often considered as one of the primary activities included in promotions (Free Management Library, 2007). Public Relations practice is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and/or person and its publics (Building Brands.com, 2007)".
References
Adams, Dewey, Bonds, Jennifer, Jackson, Tiffany (Nov. 1999). History of mass communications, history of public relations. Retrieved August 26, 2007 from: http://com.hilbert.edu/students/papers/carolina-1999/1999publicrelations.html
Building Brands (2007). Marketing definitions. Public Relations. Retrieved August 26, 2007 from: http://www.buildingbrands.com/definitions/07_public_relations.php
Entrepreneur.com, (2007). Public Relations. Retrieved August 26, 207 from: http://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/term/82434.html
Free Management Library (2007). Basic Definitions: Advertising, Marketing, Promotion, Public Relations and Publicity, and Sales. Retrieved August 26, 2007 from: http://www.managementhelp.org/ad_prmot/defntion.htm

Seitel , F. P. (2004). The practice of public relations. Prentice-Hall, Inc. A Pearson Education Company
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