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Why redefining PR is not unlike herding cats

By Linda Forrest

The PR industry has been aflutter with activity in response to the recent efforts of the Public Relations Society of America to crowd source a new definition for PR.

Rather than leave it open ended, PRSA has gone with a fill-in-the-blank (in this case, parentheses) approach:

Public relations (does what) with/for (whom) to (with/for) for (what purpose).

If you wish to weigh in, submissions will be accepted at the above link until the end of the week, with a new definition targeted for publication before the end of the year.

It has indeed been quite some time since the term has been defined, nearly 20 years, during which time the means by which public relations is conducted has evolved markedly from dead trees to digital zeros and ones, shifting from a one-way conversation to a multi-stakeholder conversation.

From the PRSA website:

The PRSA 1982 National Assembly formally adopted a definition of public relations, which remains widely accepted and used today:

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

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Recent Comments

  • James LaPalme : Francis Would not say thrived - but close - in spite of geography. 15ish years ago - a group of similar skilled and experience and capable business folks (sales, channel, alliance, business development) all lived in Canada (Ottawa-Toronto-Waterloo). All except for one stayed - that would be me. Well the guys that went to Silicon Valley have thrived well beyond expectations. The others - Boston, Dallas and EU have done very well - thrived. My survival has been predominately based on CEO's from outside Ontario seeing my value. Best to move on to more receptive fertile ground if ambitious. A successful strategy is to move south do a few years and remove the pure northern business experience then come back - which my experience is very few will.

  • Francis Moran : I'm so glad to see you warming to this idea, Luc. Not that you were ever one of those mindless critics who automatically opposed the proposal; you were properly skeptical and demanding that it contain more of what folks like you and I believed was necessary for success. Looks like the city is listening.

  • Luc Lalande : Hi Francis, thank you for the steady and keen eye on the development of this important project for the City. I share your view that open spaces in the building’s design will be critical components for encouraging spontaneous interactions between people. Integrating such spaces in the Innovation Complex sends the right signals to the community-at-large and not just the local startup ecosystem: everyone is welcomed! With respect to Patti’s comments about the arts sector, it would be worth bringing back to light that the Hintonburg-Mechanicsville area has emerged as the first Arts District in the City of Ottawa, housing many artist studios, performing arts studios, and media groups. While the 7 Bayview located Innovation Complex may cater to the entrepreneurial set, there is still considerable property on these lands that could, one day, be developed and capitalize on the area’s sizable artistic community. But perhaps the open spaces at the Innovation Complex can be equally accommodating for anyone who embraces creativity and entrepreneurship: artists and innovators alike.

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