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PRSA has three “crowd-sourced” definitions for Public Relations it has posted for open voting.

I won’t go into the whole history, you can get up to speed here.

I have worked in Public Relations for more than 25 years, and have, over that time, been constantly challenged to explain/define what PR is. — to my family, my friends, my colleagues in sales, to management and to new acquaintances at cocktail parties.

The best/simplest explanation I have ever come across is the following analogy, one of the few jokes about Public Relations (I’m not saying it’s a good joke, just an effective explanation).  You’ve probably heard it.

You see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and say, “I’m fantastic in bed.”
– That’s Direct Marketing.

You’re at a party with a bunch of friends and see a handsome guy. One of your friends goes up to him and pointing at you says, “She’s fantastic in bed.”
– That’s Advertising.

You see a handsome guy at a party. You go up to him and get his telephone number. The next day you call and say, “Hi, I’m fantastic in bed.”
– That’s Telemarketing.

You’re at a party and see a handsome guy. You get up and straighten your dress. You walk up to him and pour him a drink. You say, “May I,” and reach up to straighten his tie, brushing your breast lightly against his arm, and then say, “By the way, I’m fantastic in bed.”
– That’s Public Relations.

You’re at a party and see a handsome guy. He walks up to you and says, “I hear you’re fantastic in bed.”
– That’s Brand Recognition.

You’re at a party and see a handsome guy. You talk him into going home with your friend.
– That’s a Sales Rep.

Your friend can’t satisfy him so he calls you.
– That’s Tech Support.

You’re on your way to a party when you realize that there could be handsome men in all these houses you’re passing. So you climb onto the roof of one situated toward the center and shout at the top of your lungs, “I’m fantastic in bed!”
– That’s Spam.

The element that PRSA may have overlooked and that may be making the task more difficult is,  who is the target audience?  Who is the definition meant to address?  Are we talking to the industry?  Potential clients?  Because that makes a huge difference.

I wondering if not being specific with who the definition is meant for may help explain why Gini Dietrich with her Global Agency background sees it differently than Maddie Grant with her Corporate PR experience.  And why the three PRSA definitions seem so jargon-filled and vague. 

The PR Coach, Jeff Domansky, inspired by Homer Simpson, is mobilizing the Twitterverse to challenge the PRSA definitions due to the feedback he has received.

In any case, I can’t resist weighing in, for what it’s worth.  I’ll use my trusted strategic Marketing process and begin by defining both the target audience for, and the objective of, public relations.

The target audience is the broad, general public – “any man”, or woman.  

What is the objective of public relations?  What do we hope to achieve?

The objective of public relations is to manage and build a strong, favorable (Brand/product/Corporate) reputation by providing timely information and by engaging the stakeholders and the franchise in ongoing (two-way) communication about the Brand/product/Corporation leading to a trusted relationship.

So, the definition of Public Relations would be similar:

Public Relations is managing/building a strong Brand/product/Corporate reputation by informing and engaging stakeholders/users in ongoing communication and dialogue to form an enduring, trusted relationship.

This debate could go on forever.  Or become an alternate soporific to the other PR joke I found.

What does the wife of a public relations expert do when she has insomnia?  She rolls over and says, “Tell me again, darling, just what is it that you do for a living?” http://nickrenton.com/920.htm

I’m hoping this issue is too important for that to happen.