Public Relations Definition

This is definitely the definitive definition, maybe.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

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Looking for the pub­lic rela­tions definition?

Defining pub­lic rela­tions (PR) 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 help­ful defin­i­tion for my daily PR life.

Here we go:

Public Relations Definition

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The Public Relations Definition

Someone once tried to count the num­ber of actu­al defin­i­tions of pub­lic rela­tions (PR), but they allegedly gave up after find­ing over 500+ dif­fer­ent ver­sions. 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). 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:

The Public Relations Definition

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

Please note:

Stakeholders = rep­res­ent­at­ives of vari­ous ves­ted interests dir­ectly or indir­ectly con­nec­ted to the organ­isa­tion. 3Silfwer, J. (2021, January 5). The Stakeholders in Public Relations. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​s​t​a​k​e​h​o​l​d​e​r​s​-​i​n​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/

Influencers = inde­pend­ent con­tent cre­at­ors with influ­en­tial plat­forms and fol­low­ers of import­ance to the organ­isa­tion. 4Silfwer, J. (2020, January 15). The Influencers in Public Relations. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​i​n​f​l​u​e​n​c​e​r​s​-​i​n​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/

Publics = a psy­cho­graph­ic seg­ment (who) with sim­il­ar com­mu­nic­a­tion beha­viours (how) formed around a spe­cif­ic issue (why) affect­ing the organ­isa­tion (to whom). 5Silfwer, J. (2015, June 11). The Publics in Public Relations. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​p​u​b​l​i​c​s​-​i​n​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/

Learn more: Public Relations Definition

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Alternative 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

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Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

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Introducing Public Relations

Comparing Public Relations

Reading List: PR Blogs

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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
3 Silfwer, J. (2021, January 5). The Stakeholders in Public Relations. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​s​t​a​k​e​h​o​l​d​e​r​s​-​i​n​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/
4 Silfwer, J. (2020, January 15). The Influencers in Public Relations. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​i​n​f​l​u​e​n​c​e​r​s​-​i​n​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/
5 Silfwer, J. (2015, June 11). The Publics in Public Relations. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​p​u​b​l​i​c​s​-​i​n​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/
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.
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The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations obviously; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that it's good to have hobbies outside work.

The cover photo has

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