Canadian PR guy Victor Vrsnik weighs in on the public relations definition debate that has so vexed those of us south of the border. Turns out Canada has its own defition of PR, and it's better than ours:
"Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals and serve the public interest."
Compare that to the recently approved American definition:
"Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics." (emphasis in both cases is from Vrsnik)
Why is Canada's conception of the dark art of PR better than that of the good old U S of A? As Vrsnik notes, it is explicit in recognizing that public relations is a means for achieving an organization's strategic objectives, i.e., its business goals. Hence he draws on Don Draper's famous line, "I don't sell advertising. I sell products."
Integral to achieving business goals are managing relationships, which Vrsnik notes is at the core of the Canadian definition. By contrast, we Americans place our emphasis on the communications aspect of public relations, which is merely a means to an end, not the end itself. Vrsnik is devastating but dead-on accurate in his conclusion:
Corporate outcomes make PR practitioners relevant and invaluable; moves us to the C-Suite; and puts us in a position to seize ownership of emerging technologies for communicating messages.
People who sell social media will always be hired to do social media. People who sell media relations will stay in the communications ghetto. People who talk in terms of corporate objectives get to do it all.
What a powerful declaration. It's a finger, poking us in the chest as PR professionals, demanding to know, 'Are you good enough? Do you know what it takes to succeed?'
I have my answer. What is yours?