Public Relations Definition

This is definitely the definitive definition, maybe.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

This is my pub­lic rela­tions definition.

Defining pub­lic rela­tions is no easy task.

We are a pro­fes­sion with powers to help brands com­mu­nic­ate bet­ter, but we struggle with defin­ing ourselves — the irony isn’t lost on anyone.

Still, after many years of the­or­et­ic­al and prac­tic­al tri­al-and-error, I’ve cre­ated a defin­i­tion use­ful for my daily PR life.

Here we go:

Defining Public Relations

Someone once tried to count the sug­ges­ted defin­i­tions of pub­lic rela­tions but allegedly gave up after find­ing 2,000+ dif­fer­ent attempts. 1From the early 1900s to 1976, Rex F. Harlow, a well-respec­ted expert on pub­lic rela­tions, gathered around 500 dif­fer­ent defin­i­tions of pub­lic rela­tions (Cutlip et al. 2006).

The story might be an urb­an PR legend, but the point remains the same: Many PR defin­i­tions exist.

With all of those 2,000+ defin­i­tions in mind, what kind of PR blog­ger would I be if I didn’t also take a stab at a PR definition? 

So, here’s how I define pub­lic relations:

Public Relations Definition

Pouring Coffee in PR Mug
I love PR, but first coffee.
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The Public Relations Definition

Someone once tried to count the num­ber of actu­al defin­i­tions of pub­lic rela­tions, but they allegedly gave up after find­ing over 500+ dif­fer­ent ver­sions. 2Morris, T., & Goldsworthy, S. (2008). From PR to pro­pa­ganda. 97 – 111. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​0​7​/​978 – 0‑230 – 59485-2_7

Amongst so many defin­i­tions of Public Relations, here’s the defin­i­tion that I find to be most useful:

Public Relations Definition

Public Relations (PR) = the stra­tegic and tac­tic­al use of com­mu­nic­a­tion to devel­op and main­tain pro­duct­ive rela­tion­ships with stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and publics.

Please note:

Stakeholders in PR = incentiv­ised rep­res­ent­at­ives with vari­ous interests in the organisation.

Influencers in PR = inde­pend­ent gate­keep­ers with audi­ences of import­ance to the organisation.

Publics in PR = situ­ation­al groups with sim­il­ar com­mu­nic­at­ive beha­viours affect­ing the organisation.

Learn more: Public Relations Definition

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Other Public Relations Definitions

Here are a few addi­tion­al definitions:

Public rela­tions is the stra­tegic prac­tice of influ­en­cing atti­tudes and beha­vi­or through com­mu­nic­a­tion, which seeks to cre­ate and main­tain mutu­ally bene­fi­cial rela­tion­ships between an organ­iz­a­tion and its pub­lics.”
Public Relations Society of America

Public rela­tions is the art and social sci­ence of ana­lyz­ing trends, pre­dict­ing their con­sequences, coun­sel­ing organ­iz­a­tion­al lead­ers, and imple­ment­ing planned pro­grams of action, which will serve both the organ­iz­a­tion and the pub­lic interest.”
IPR Commission on PR Education

Public rela­tions is the pro­cess of cre­at­ing, build­ing, and main­tain­ing rela­tion­ships with key stake­hold­ers in order to achieve organ­iz­a­tion­al goals and object­ives.”
Chartered Institute of Public Relations

Public rela­tions is an organ­iz­a­tion­al func­tion and a set of pro­cesses for man­aging com­mu­nic­a­tion between an organ­iz­a­tion and its pub­lics.”
International Association of Business Communicators

Public rela­tions is the man­age­ment func­tion which eval­u­ates pub­lic atti­tudes, iden­ti­fies the policies and pro­ced­ures of an organ­iz­a­tion with the pub­lic interest, and plans and executes a pro­gram of action to earn pub­lic under­stand­ing and accept­ance.”
Institute for Public Relations

Public rela­tions is the man­age­ment of com­mu­nic­a­tion between an organ­iz­a­tion and its pub­lics, through the use of tech­no­logy, social media, and oth­er forms of com­mu­nic­a­tion to achieve mutu­al under­stand­ing, real­ize organ­iz­a­tion­al goals, and serve the pub­lic interest.”
The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management


Please sup­port my PR blog by shar­ing it with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: Public Relations Meaning

Public Relations Meaning - What Is PR - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Public rela­tions mean­ing — what is PR?
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Public Relations Meaning (What Is PR?)

The single biggest prob­lem in com­mu­nic­a­tion is the illu­sion that it has taken place.”
— George Bernard Shaw

Public Relations (abbre­vi­ated “PR”) is the stra­tegic and tac­tic­al use of com­mu­nic­a­tion to devel­op and main­tain pro­duct­ive rela­tion­ships with stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and pub­lics.

PR is some­times referred to as “Strategic Communications” or simply “Communications.” Public rela­tions pro­fes­sion­als some­times jok­ingly say that PR also stands for “Perception Management” or “Personal Relationships.”

PR pro­fes­sion­als have vari­ous spe­cial­isa­tions, includ­ing cor­por­ate com­mu­nic­a­tions, investor rela­tions (IR), media rela­tions, digit­al PR, pub­lic affairs (PA), lob­by­ing, intern­al com­mu­nic­a­tions (IC), crisis com­mu­nic­a­tions, mar­ket­ing PR, and industry PR (B2B).

The PESO mod­el explains the cent­ral dif­fer­ence between marketing/​advertising and communications/​PR:

Marketing/​Advertising

  • Paid Media: Advertising, pro­mo­tions, etc.

Communications/​PR

  • Earned Media: Publicity, word-of-mouth, etc.
  • Shared Media: Online buzz, social shares, etc. 
  • Owned Media: Web pages, social accounts, etc.

Learn more: Public Relations Meaning — What Is PR?

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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 From the early 1900s to 1976, Rex F. Harlow, a well-respec­ted expert on pub­lic rela­tions, gathered around 500 dif­fer­ent defin­i­tions of pub­lic rela­tions (Cutlip et al. 2006).
2 Morris, T., & Goldsworthy, S. (2008). From PR to pro­pa­ganda. 97 – 111. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​0​7​/​978 – 0‑230 – 59485-2_7
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has

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