Public relations is basically an art or a science of making strong relationships between an organization and its interest groups. Public relations help organizations to create strong relationships with customers. In this essay I will seek to critically examine a number of definitions to explain what is public relations and its strengths and weaknesses, how those definitions helps public relations practitioners on their day-today activities and also the relationship between those definitions and ethical practices. Finally it will conclude the most effective and efficient definition of public relations.
Various writers define Public relations in various ways. According to Haywood (1991, p.4) public relations is “the management of corporate reputation”. This is a simple definition and it is very easy to understand. This definition expresses the main goal of public relations. That is public relations enhance the company’s reputation. According to this definition we can explain the role of the Public relations practitioner as the company’s reputation protector. Their duty is to prepare positive stories about the company or its product and build good relationships with media. The main weakness of this definition is that it does not reflect the importance of public relations. That is it does not talk about the public or the customers who buy the product and the media that is responsible for selling the product.
The definitions of public relations are “often evolving alongside public relations’ changing roles and technological advances.” (PRSA, 2010) there is no specific definition for public relations because it changes with the time. According to the current environment the definitions of public relations “incorporate the concepts of engagement and relationship building.” (PRSA, 2010) According to PRSA (2010) it is defined as “Public relations help an organization and its publics
adapt mutually to each other”. This is a simple definition with a big meaning. Adapt mutually to each other means that the people are getting more familiarize, loyal or confidence with the company or its products.
Another definition for Public relations is that “The Public relations is a management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organization with public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.” (Seitel, p. 10) It defines PR as a management function. Management should be able to bring up with something that makes public and media more appealing and interested. That will make the company or the product more attractive from their competitors or substitutes.
Moreover Public relations have also defined as a “distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communications, understanding, acceptance, and cooperation between an organization and its publics; involves the management of problems or issues; helps management to keep informed on and responsive to public opinion; defines and emphasizes the responsibility of management to serve the public interest; helps management keep abreast of and effectively utilize change, serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends; and uses research and sound and ethical communication techniques as its principal tools.” (Seitel, p. 9) It explains each and every aspect of public relations. It includes all the main points pop up with all the above definitions. According to this definition public relations is a separate management function.
Public Relations institute of Australia (2010) defines it as “deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization (or individual) and its (or their) publics. It’s the key to effective communication in all sectors of business, government, academic and not-for-profit.” Unlike other definitions this definition shows that this is a deliberate or done after careful consideration and a proper planning is very important to attract most public. Also this explains the main goal of Public relations in a simple way. Maintain mutual understanding is promotion of a feeling of goodwill towards company. I believe that this is the most appropriate definition for Public relations since it explain the main goal of public relations and the parties involve with in a simple and straightforward manner.
According to the above definitions it is apparent that the main objective of the public relations practitioners would be enhances the public feelings towards their organization. To make stories or write articles needs certain skills like high level of communication skill in both written and verbal. They also need to have heaps of contacts or a network. Apart from that they should have good knowledge about how the media and advertising work. Ethics is also very important to an organization since bad ethnics spoil the image of the company. Most importantly if the company goes wrong or have done something bad the Public Relations practitioners should effectively answer the criticism and turn it around in order to protect the company’s reputation. (Thomas, 1987)
In conclusion, there are number of different definitions for public relations. I believe that the ideal definition to public relations is “deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization (or individual) and its (or their) publics. It’s the key to effective communication in all sectors of business, government, academic and not-for-profit.” It is very simple straightforward and describes the main goal of public relations. According to all the definitions the public relations practitioner’s main goal is to protect and increase the company’s reputation. To do that, they need variety of skills mainly high level of communication skills. There is a positive relationship between professional definition of public relations and ethical practice. Because ethics apply how an organization interact with public. Good ethics will increase the reputation while bad ethics will spoil the image of the company. If something happen to the image of the company it is public relations practitioners’ duty to reestablish its good name. .
Haywood, R., 1991, All About Public Relations, 2nd edn, McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, England.
Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA), 2010, About Public Relations, Viewed 7 April 2010, < http://www.pria.com.au/aboutus/cid/2/parent/0/t/aboutus/l/layout>
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), 2010, PRSA’s Widely Accepted Definition, viewed 5 April 2010, <http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/PublicRelationsDefined/>.
Seitel, F.P, 2001, 8th edn, The Practice of Public Relations, Prentice Hall, Inc.
Thomas, H.B., 1987, ‘Applying ethical theory to public relations’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol.6, issue.3, p.6-7.