#PR140 - Defining Public Relations in 140 Characters or Less

By Ronnie Manning

It happens often, you tell someone that you work in public relations and it seems that the question that comes back is “So that’s advertising right?” or “That’s interesting, what exactly does that mean?”.  Public Relations can carry a broad definition depending on what types of clients you are working with, the type of campaigns you are executing and the markets that are being targeted.

According to PRSA, “The formal practice of what is now commonly referred to as “public relations” dates to the early 20th century. In the relatively brief period leading up to today, public relations has been defined in many different ways, the definition often evolving alongside public relations’ changing roles and technological advances. The earliest definitions emphasized press agentry and publicity, while more modern definitions incorporate the concepts of “engagement” and “relationship building.”

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media platforms have become major components in today’s PR plans and strategies.  Twitter saw massive growth during 2010 and according to Mashable, Twitter claimed that more than 100 million new accounts were opened in 2010.  Today as PR practitioners, we are speaking in 140 characters or less to cultivate relationships and communicate our clients and/or company messages. 

It’s the combination of the Twitter phenomenon and the constant evolution of PR that I asked my fellow PR professionals and peers “How would you define the practice of Public Relations in 140 characters or less?”  A difficult question with almost every reply being different, but with similarity in the core definitions.  I thank all who provided the great insight below to provide modern definitions to our age old practice.

  • “PR is not rocket science! Keep promises, exceed expectations, collaborate w/ team mates AND clients, and have fun!” Teri Morris 
  • “Circus poster: Advertising. Put poster on elephant & walk through town: Promotion. Elephant tramples mayor’s rose garden & he laughs: PR.” Brenda Christensen  
  • “PR: Being sure of a message, connecting with the right ones, communicating in format received, and being a pit bull about staying on course.” Richard Laermer 
  • “Building public/consumer trust in your clients’ brands and/or messages through repeated positive editorial coverage in the media.” Lizzy Shaw
  • "Know your stuff. Be relevant. Be timely. Be helpful. Be a human being. Tell good stories. Make relationships real. Don’t be a jerk. Hustle." Dave Clarke 
  • "Your brand is the story of your company, well told. Know your story, tell it well." Ford Kanzler 
  • Telling your story and sharing your news with internal and external audiences to build trust and ties.” Jason Mudd 
  • “A management tool to build positive relationships with constituencies that matter to your business or cause.” Mark Grimm 
  • “Awareness. Understanding. Use. Bottom Line. Growing them all!” Jolene Loetscher
  • “Bridging the gap between perception and reality. You can’t tell the “Real Story” without Public Relations.” Kevin Mercuri 
  • PR is authentic, ad-free communication to build brands & create awareness. Coupled with social media, PR promotes & manages a company, person or brand image.” Molly Lynch 
  • “The art of conveying a brand’s key messages through news, events & communications to establish, enhance or repair the brand’s image.” Laura Crovo 
  • “PR is perceived and proven image of a person or business, and ongoing communication to consistently guide opinion & shape attitudes.” Gail Sideman 
  • “The space between your brand and its biggest critic/cheerleader.” Erin Schorr 
  • “Getting ink, enhancing profiles and when the stars align, increasing a client’s bottom-line.” Robert Martinez 
  • “Strengthening relationships!” Taylor White 
  • “PR is using strategic communications to engage, educate, inform or persuade different publics utilizing a variety of tactics.” Jason Gerdon 
  • “PR is in the midst of a major collision w/digital media; This major paradigm shift challenges communication pros to adapt or fail in 2011.” Ray Young
  • “P.R. influences an audience to trust you, your product or your service through truthful statements & reliable testimony.” Jim DeLorenzo 
  • “Creating mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and the groups upon which their success or failure depend upon.” Julie Heidelberg 
  • And my definition would be  “Increasing brand awareness through communications – maintaining a strong image – building relationships – evolving… not Advertising.”

So the next time someone asks you to define Public Relations, feel free to borrow one of the many definitions above and if you would like to add your own, we would love your comments below!