|January 17, 2012|
|PR Society Struggles to Define PR, Further Hurting Industry|
|By Jack O'Dwyer|
|The PR Society has now said it will take an extra two months to come up with a new definition of PR (end of Feb. vs. end of Dec.).|
The Society, disregarding its own five-year, $150,000 study in 1999 that found “PR specialist” to rank 43rd on a list of 45 “believable sources of information,” is trying to come up with a peaches and cream definition that members can recite to themselves over and over, like a mantra.
They are the only ones who are going to believe it.
Three stalking horse definitions have been proposed but further inputs are being sought from 12 global partners as well as the public (which may or may not include the press).
Trial definitions are:
(1): “PR is the management function of researching, engaging, communicating and collaborating with stakeholders in an ethical matter to build mutually beneficial relationships and achieve results.”
(2): “PR is a strategic communications process that develops and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their key publics.”
(3): “PR is the engagement between organizations and individuals to achieve mutual understanding and realize strategic goals.”
The problem is that the term “PR” itself has a PR problem that just about everyone but PRS recognizes.
The term has lost favor even among “PR” firms.
Only six of the top 50 firms in the O’Dwyer rankings use PR in their names. Most common are the names of founders often with the word “communications” (9) or “group” (8). Only 17 of the 100 biggest firms use “PR.”
PR is often seen as having a negative image and also as being too limiting.
(PR) Seminar Dropped PR
Corporations have been eliminating use of PR since the 1970s for the same reasons.
Our latest full list of (PR) Seminar attendees (2009) shows that among the 127 attendees, only five had “PR” in their titles.
An August 2011 Gallup poll showed that the public’s positive view of ad/PR had declined from 38% in 2001 to 32%.
Neither all the soap in Procter & Gamble nor PRS’s attempts to craft a new definition of PR are going to help the industry’s image.
It reminds us of the Medieval pastime of figuring out how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.
We wonder how much money is being spent on this wool-gathering?
PRS, confronted with the devastating results of the 1999 study, declared a press boycott rather than trying to do something about it.
The only PR pro on staff, Richard George, assisted by junior staffer Heather Rogers, quit the Society a couple of months after the study was disclosed.
That term is used loosely since PRS had no press conference and sent out no releases on the study. Tactics didn’t print the table of 45 sources. When the PRS board refused to discuss the study and other topics with the press, a member formally accused the board of violating five articles of the Ethics Code.
Rather than try the charges, PRS declared the Code kaput and spent $197,247 in 1999-2000 to create a new code with no enforcement provisions.
A competent re-write person could have crafted a new code in an afternoon since the main job was to take something out.
Definition Quest Ignores Reality
PRS’s quest for an overall definition of PR ignores the reality of what has happened to this industry in the last several decades—the movement of PR (meaning relations with the press and public) from corporations and institutions to the agency side where large specialist practices have been built up in healthcare, tech, financial, food/beverages, environment/PA, travel, sports/leisure and entertainment/cultural, to name some of them.
Clients can confidently shop for marketing and communications experts in these broad categories at such firms.
“PR” pros can specialize in one or more of these areas but not all of them. So it makes no sense to have something called “Accredited in PR.”
One may as well define sports.
Let’s see, usually a ball of some type is involved of various shapes and weights (football, baseball, golf, tennis) while other sports involve strength and endurance (swimming and diving, weight-lifting, long and short-distance running, gymnastics, ice-skating).
PRS, dominated by APR zealots for more than 35 years, has lost sight of reality. APRs blew $2.9 million from 1986-2003 on APR which ignores the development of the specialties. A PRS committee made a stab several years ago at“certifying” some of the specialties but this was forgotten.
Wikipedia Needs Full Court Press
A major problem for PR people and others who get paid for trying to place materials on Wikipedia is that co-founder Jimmy Wales is dead-set against such contributors.
A fierce battle is being waged now on the Facebook page called “Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement” that was set up by Phil Gomes, SVP of Edelman Digital, Chicago.
Gomes and others are alarmed at the high standing of WP entries on practically any subject worldwide when so much of the materials are dated, skimpy or even wrong.
The entries on PR topics, as we have shown, are tiny or non-existent and our attempts to improve them have been blocked by some of WP’s 10,000 volunteer editors.
Paid WP contributors say these editors most of the time know little about the subjects they are editing.
More than 100 interested parties are posting on CREWE.
PRS chair Gerry Corbett and VP-PR Arthur Yann are offering to “help” but what PRS should do is sack its bootless quest for a definition of PR (an initiative of 2011 chair Rosanna Fiske that should have been completed in 2011), stop all its numerous anti-democratic, anti-communications, anti-press, anti-New York and anti-members practices, and join Gregory Kohs and other paid WP contributors in getting Wales to recognize valid entries and corrections, no matter what the source.
WP is being strangled by its instance on needing “published” articles in “reliable” media before recognizing anything.
It wouldn’t believe the score of a sports event until it was published in the media.
(Angels image via)
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