Defining Public Relations

Essay by Lizzie7University, Bachelor'sA-, October 2006

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The practice of what today is called public relations is less than 100 years old. Yet during its brief history, public relations has been defined in many different ways. The earliest definitions emphasized the roles of press agentry and publicity since these were major elements from which modern public relations grew. (Public Relations Society of America [PRSA], n.d.) Many definitions were quite lengthy, so much so that they tended to describe what public relations does than what it is. In 1988, in an attempt to solve this dilemma the governing body of the Public Relations Society of America formally adopted a definition of public relations which has become most accepted and widely used: "Public relations helps an organization and its public adapt mutually to each other." (PRSA) This definition implies the essential functions of research, planning, communications dialogue and evaluation. This definition also recognizes that all organizations have multiple publics from which they must earn consent and support.

According to Wikipedia, public relations is the art and science of managing communication between an organization and its key publics to build manage and sustain its positive image. (Wikipedia, 2006) Examples of public relations fitting this description are many. Corporations using marketing public relations to convey information about their products they manufacture or services they provide to potential customers to support their direct sales efforts. Nonprofit organizations, including schools and universities, hospitals and human and social service agencies using public relations in support of awareness programs, fund-raising programs, staff recruiting, and to increase patronage of their services. Politicians use public relations to attract votes and raise money, and, when successful at the ballot box, to promote and defend their service in office.

Fraser Seitel, the author of "The Practice of Public Relations", defines public relations as a planned process to influence...