The question, "What is public relations?" is extremely difficult to define, and has concerned many public relations practitioners and scholars alike. Ask anybody, and more than likely the answers will be different. Public Relations (PR) deals with a broad range of attitudes and methods, therefore, it is not easily defined. Many communication scholars agree that definitions are inherently rhetorical and that the formations of definitions are social processes that shape reality. Since definitions play critical roles both in societal processes and in the minds of those who study and practice public relations, this paper examines several popular definitions of public relations as well as a personal definition derived from a workplace experience. Most important, this paper explains that regardless of how public relations is defined, it is an essential element in the conduct of relationships for a vast variety of organizations in the 21st century.
Research Findings of Public Relations Definitions:
According to Fraser P.
Seitel, author of the text, The Practice of Public Relations, public relations is a planned process to influence public opinion, through sound character and proper performance, based on mutually satisfactory tow-way communication.
In 1988, in an attempt to developed a simple definition for public relations, the governing body of the Public Relations Society of America (PSRA) formally adopted a definition of public relations which has become the most accepted and widely used. Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other. The definition implies the essential functions of research, planning, communications dialogue, and evaluation. Key words are "organization" rather than the limiting implication of "company" or "business", and "publics" which recognizes that all organizations have multiple publics from which they must earn consent and support. (About Public Relations, 2005).
"Perhaps the best known definition of public relations is presented by Grunig...