Over the weekend, I received an email from Keith Trivitt who (literally) manages PR for PR’s sake. He’s the in-house communications pro for PRSA, the industry’s trade association. Keith tipped me off to a new campaign by the organization that hopes to “modernize” the definition of public relations in a world where social media has changed everything. It seeks to accomplish this (no small undertaking) through crowdsourcing, a new logo and umbrella theme.
One of most venerable chronclers of the ad/marketing industry, who periodically acknowledges the PR profession in his column, took the opportunity to do so today. Stuart Elliott of The New York Times wrote:
The New York Times’s Stuart Elliott
“The effort, of course, has a catchy name, Public Relations Defined, and a logo, too, that proclaims its goal: â€œA modern definition for the new era of public relations.â€ The effort is being spurred by the profound changes in public relations since the last time the organization updated its definition, in 1982.”
BTW — You can catch Stuart — if jury duty doesn’t sidetrack him — along with four other influential ad/marketing reporters editors at our next PCNY lunch Dec 12 in NYC. (But I shamelessly digress.)
The trade association is not alone in scrutinizing how the profession see itself and is seen by others for its future sustainability. MWW’s Michael Kempner posted today on his blog about the need to inculcate college students:
MWW’s Michael Kempner
“We spend so much of our timeâ€¦ and rightly soâ€¦ helping clients brand themselves for future employees, we often forget to do the same for ourselves. Yet, PR firms offer among the best places to work for those searching for creative, collaborative work environments on the cutting edge of technology and trends. We need to do a better job as an industry of merchandising the field for graduates if we are going to compete for the top young talent and ensure the future of our profession.”
And the other week at PR Week‘s NeXT conference, we watched the leadership of Ketchum, Edelman and Golin Harris paint a most promising picture of our industry’s future in spite of the absence of a clear and consistent definition for what we do.
Since I’m fond of the PRSA team and appreciate their earnestness here — sorry Jack — I did write Keith back to offer my two cents on what currently ails the profession:
It’s a question to which I’ve given considerable thought, especially nowadays as practitioners grow increasingly frustrated by unanswered emails to journalists and ineffective direct-to-constituency communications, two-way included.
One PR pro recently summed up the disruption of the engagement game: “it’s a buyer’s market,” meaning that those you’re hoping to engage have a myriad other credible sources for story ideas or actionable information. We’re simply no longer serve or are perceived as the primary bearers of timely, accurate and actionable information. Google, Twitter and Facebook have seen to that.
Hence, as I see it, the challenge for the PR industry lies less in redefining what we call or how we define ourselves, and more in regaining that lost authority we once held as the most trusted and informed sources for our clients’ news and point-of-views to both journalists and end-stakeholders. After all, we’re still closest to the real newsmakers.
If you do want to weigh in with a new definition, here’s the submission form to make it easy.