A lot of people in the communications field are talking about how to define public relations.
Beth Harte did a wonderful job of framing the conversation and linking to a post by Heidi Cohen, who collected 31 definitions for public relations to demonstrate the diversity of perspective on this topic.
Frank Strong offered his perspective and pointed out how the lack of a clear definition leaves public relations vulnerable to characterization.
Recently, I was in a meeting with several colleagues where we discussed how a definition of public relations from 1964 is finally relevant to today’s applications. How crazy is that?
At the risk of sounding like a complete nerd, I think it’s kind of exciting to see this discourse play itself out.
It presents a unique challenge for folks in PR to take ownership of their profession. It’s making us think critically about what we do on a day-to-day basis and about how we contribute to the bigger picture.
Rather than add my two cents worth to the growing list of definitions, I decided it would be interesting to take all the definitions collected thus far (huge hat tip to Heidi Cohen for making this possible) and putting them into a word cloud.
You know, make public relations look pretty and such.
But this exercise is about more than aesthetics.
Semantic analysis of the definitions might also bring to the surface the strongest themes and dominant traits to focus on in continuing to define the PR profession.
For clarity, I removed all mentions of “public relations” and “PR” from the list of definitions, since those words were repeated the most. If the term “public” appears, it’s outside of the context of “public relations.”
So, here it is in all its glory (Courtesy of Wordle.net. And yes, I customized the colors to the pink palette):
It’s easy to glean some key terms from the image, like media, communications, social, and even marketing.
Again, this exercise is not entirely perfect, as the discussion on how to define public relations continues. It will be interesting to see how it pans out and how it affects the PR practice of tomorrow.
How do you define public relations? For anyone not specifically in PR, what do you think is the definition of it?