PRSA Uses Crowd Sourcing for New Definition of Public Relations

The old definition of public relations is out. Public Relations Society of America will adopt a new definition by the end of 2011. You can chime in with your version of PR by December 2nd at Definition of PR Submission Form.

PRSA is crowd sourcing the public for help with the definition. My, how electronic communications has changed everything. The race to a definition began on October 31st with the launch of the Public Relations Defined Initiative.

Here is the old definition adopted in 1982:

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

In almost 30 years we’ve seen the Internet radically change how we communicate so it is more than time for a new definition. Here is the form that PRSA is asking members of the public to complete:

"Public relations defined"

Public relations defined

I submitted my definition but thought I’d be able to review it after I hit the Submit button, but I couldn’t. So write yours down before submitting if you want to save it to compare to the final definition selected.

PRSA began accepting submissions on November 21st and created this word cloud after the first two days that shows the words most often submitted are public, communication and organization:

If you decide to submit your definition I would love to know what it is. Just leave it in the comments box.

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  1. Interesting, Jeannette, that they use crowd sourcing to determine the new definition. Almost makes me wonder if there’s anything crowd sourcing isn’t used for anymore.

    As for a definition of PR there are so many around it’s confusing. Honestly believe PR, marketing, communication, business development and so forth are so closely connected it’s difficult to distinguish what is what.

    It’s the overall result of what’s done in all those different areas that makes you succeed.

    • Catarina – I agree. All the communications channels have meshed together, so who cares how PR is defined if you get the results you want.

  2. Jocelyn — you may be right. And maybe we just don’t need a definition. The internet has changed everything about how we communicate so it may be an impossible task.

  3. As you might have read from some of my own posts I don’t agree with crowd sourcing. I’m not sure what their ‘reward’ is for the winner, but I agree with Catarina’s comment. It’s all so closely related that it almost seems unnecessary to define. All that matters is the results. I guess were all so obsessed with titles and definitions. I’d like to see the results of this crowd sourcing.

    • Dennis – I know you’ve written about crowd sourcing on your blog and I have some issues with it, too, but it’s all the rage now. I’ll be sure to share the final definition in another blog post.

  4. Hi Jeannette,

    Do you know why they decided to crowd source the definition? if you look at the word cloud it doesn’t say much and the result probably depends on who is submitting. Another question is what are they going do do once they have this new definition?

    • Susan — I don’t know why they decided to crowd source the definition and what they will do with the one they finally come up with. The Society actually developed another definition a number of years ago but couldn’t get it approved. Maybe when the public speaks, PRSA leadership will have to listen. As I said, I’m not even sure we need a definition but the meaning of public relations has been a raging debate in the U.S. for years. Australians are probably wiser than we are and don’t see what the fuss is about!

    • Yes, Mike, crowd sourcing as a marketing tool is part of our world now. Dropped you a comment on your blog about mediocrity.

  5. Asking inputs from the general public about their perceptions on what PR is can be helpful since it can give the PRSA an idea of the people’s understanding of what PR is, pinpoint common misconceptions, and give the needed clarification (along with the addition of the use of social media). But personally, giving them the power to give the definition is a bit stretching it. Just like what Catarina mentioned, the definition of PR, marketing communication, brand imaging and all those other terms are so closely related that it’s so hard to tell one from the other.

    • Adeline — that’s what I’m hearing from many people: that all the communications channels, such as PR, advertising, social media are all blending together, as they should. For years they operated as silos in an organization, but now it’s all rolled into one discipline and that’s “communications.” So defining PR now is an almost impossible task.