November 28, 2011

Death by Internet Comes to 'Public Relations'

PR. Public Relations. Sometimes spin but always message-guiding, whatever it is...I mean, was, it's, going bye-bye. The Public Relations Society of America itself, PRSA, is leading a campaign to redefine "public relations" in part because the term has had "an image problem."

The larger culprit is, of course, the Internet and social media. PR has always been about influence and perception. With online networks and a camera on every mobile phone, the rise of citizen journalists has had impacts far beyond grainy images of Rodney King.

It used to be that if a key reporter was persuaded to write a story about a client's product, the PR pro's job was done. Now, one reporter equals one reporter equals whoever happens to read the resulting article. Meanwhile, there's an ongoing conversation about the product among the client's customers. Who's persuading them? Who's managing that conversation and how? Very little of that effort fits under the tattered umbrella of "public relations."

You can watch the evolution of the new definition occur in real time at PRDefinition, a new section of the PRSA website. As visitors submit their ideas, a word cloud shifts and changes to reflect the most popular ones. (The cloud from Day 2 is shown above.)

Suggestions will be accepted until Friday December 2nd; simply complete this template:
"Public relations (does what) with or for (whom) to (do what) for (what purpose)."
Vote for your favorite finalist at the PRSA website from Dec. 6 through Dec. 15.

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