The common definition of Public Relations (according to wikipedia) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics. Public relations gains an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items to….blah, blah, blah.
Given the impact and growth of all things social the means, methods and knowledge about Public Relations are being transformed and yet most PR professionals have yet to recognize the need for transformation.
Back to Intent
Lets breakdown the two words used to imply public relations. First the word public which means:
- Of, concerning, or affecting the community or the people
- Maintained for or used by the people or community
- Participated in or attended by the people or community
- Connected with or acting on behalf of the people, community, or government
- Open to the knowledge or judgment of all
- The community or the people as a whole
- A group of people sharing a common interest
Now lets look at the word relations which means: A logical or natural association between two or more things; relevance of one to another; connection. Looking at the essence of the two words, public relations, and comparing it to current PR practices one must wonder where and when PR lost its way. I didn’t see the words trick, capture, spin or mislead anywhere in the essence of the two words used behind the term “Public Relations”
Public relations, marketing and advertising are all tied together. The related practices have emerged to create mass market appeal using old methods to reach an audience.
When you examine the fundamental meaning of “public and relations” you can see three things that influence human behavior and market sentiment. The three things are people connecting with knowledge of something or someone.
Corporations historically have adopted PR tactics to manage PR for the benefit of the corporation. However the intentions have flipped from institutional aims to the aims of individuals.
People, internal and external, are now enabled to influence “public relations” because they have been given a “voice” that is loud because the signal is not from one but many. People connected with other people “learn” new knowledge about things corporations do, sell and say. If a corporation does things that aren’t “socially acceptable” then traditional PR practices cannot drown the noise of “people connected and equipped with the knowledge” of what the corporation has done or intends to do.
Good, bad and indifferent whatever “the corporation” does or intends on doing the “people” are listening and have the power to galvanize many to express an opinion on how the corporations actions impact the “public’s relations”. More and more people are voicing their opinion, sharing their knowledge and connecting their voice to many other people inside and outside corporate walls.
The conflict comes when corporations try and use “social media” to extend past “marketing, advertising and PR” practices to manage their “public relations”. These are dangerous practices because the public now influences relations more than traditional PR practices. Subsequently corporations need to not only change their “marketing, advertising and PR” practices but rather the entire ecosystem of the corporation. Why? Because the foundation of any “corporation” rest with what people know.
Individual knowledge about anything is now everyone’s knowledge about everything. Soon everyone’s “knowledge” will become easier to find and use. What impact will that have on “public relations”? Intentions can no longer be hidden behind a mask. Just ask Nestle who is in charge of Public Relations.
Brian Solis coined the term PR 2.0 (Putting The Public Back in Public Relations) in recognition of what is needed to make the transformation. Brian is the foremost thought leader behind these emerging dynamics.