Thursday, October 08, 2015

A Definition of Public Relations

As industries are automated some or some parts of the activity are subsumed into a more robust realm of activity.

For this reason, it is very important that we know what we are talking about when we examine PR Automation.

Perhaps it is now time to be very sure about what PR is and can achieve.

There is a number of definitions flying about:

Public Relations is about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public Relations is the discipline that looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.

Says the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

Lots of people try to define PR. In the digital environment, it is important to be precise and not to drift into other realms of management or to confine the practice to a future of obscurity.

The nature of PR being used in this blog recognises that:


Public Relations requires:

Knowledge and understanding of cultures, (namely “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time”) in society;
Knowledge and capability to identify those values that contribute to and define cultures and groups.

The ethically sound ability to align values in a process of refining cultures to the benefit of cultural groups and the client.

Perhaps we need some evidence to give credibility to this for of thinking.

Her I offer some examples including analysis of employees in a company as evidenced in LinkedIn.



(Picture: The skills (values) of Nationwide employees as expressed by them in LinkedIn)

This approach is consistent for consumer PR, Industry and sector PR, Corporate Affairs and HR development and all other forms of PR.

Our ability to identify, for example: cultural icons in Twitter exchanges; semantic themes in social media discourse, locations of participants, and much more through the use and application of online actions (including social media, location mapping, etc) means we can examine such evidence as values that attach to an individual or group. 

It is then possible to look for common values as between a cultural group, many cultural groups and an organisation (lets call it a client) and identify where there is a mismatch and seek to change the values of the organisation and or the cultural group.



(Picture: Where my Twitter followers live - to the nearest city - showing location values) 

The is a much that has evolved for Public Relations. 

The developing technologies offers much more accurate, much more grounded, much more effective and much better value for money PR.




(Picture: Semantically derived values expressed through Twitter about The Bank of England. Snapshot taken in early 2014)

The idea that values defined cultures is a way forward for Public Relations and  is quite a broad remit, but it also has boundaries.


Being bounded by the effects of culture is useful and prevents us being drawn into the debate about advertising or marketing in that if the activity is not to affect culture, it has no place in PR. Thus, hits on a website are not necessarily an indication of cultural change but events, actions or reactions driven by such hits are cultural effects and thereby are a PR issue.

Online PR is is much more definitive than the Grunig and Hunt (1984), proposition 30 years ago but has some common elements:


“The management of communication between an organisation and its publics.”

Or the description provided by search engines:

"The professional maintenance of a favourable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person (is this ethical?)

"public relations is often looked down on by the media." (from what great height, one might ask).

"The state of the relationship between a company or other organisation or a famous person and the public."

There is a need to be more precise because the range of influences on any individual through communication and other drivers is extensive (no WiFi is an example where equanimity in message reception might be missing).

The range of media and mechanisms and means to influence cultures available to public relations practitioners is extensive, growing and powerful. 

Automation is one such development and adds to the power of the profession and its practices.