Tomorrow’s PR Practitioner

1724396003_a1cfd6a1d6 As a perpetual student and university professor, I am drawn to definitions. Isn’t it comforting to have definitions? Defining boxes that keep us in a secure environment? Perhaps it is the personal life changes I am making, but I find these definitions are now constraining. With these definitions, a plethora of baggage is crammed behind closed doors. Between Bill Sledzik’s post seeking a unified definition of public relations and John Bell’s recent post, The 11 Skills of the Public Relations Practitioner of the Future, I want to throw my hands up in the air and scream, “What gives?” We are too busy defining and do not spend enough time practicing and sharing lessons learned.

The debate over what is the overall definition of public relations is tiring. I have heard and participated in this debate countless times. I want to see examples of real life practitioners practicing public relations and learn from their examples. Everyone has a different context in which they learn definitions, and as we evolve individually, the context of our learning takes new shape and our definitions realign. There is not a universal definition, but there are universally good practitioners.

John Bell suggests we should call ourselves communicators versus public relations professionals…is this because our industry definition is evolving or are we running away from the baggage being dragged behind our profession? John Bell lists the knowledge and skills of the PR soldier of the future, but I still think with such a list we are trying too hard to manage and control. After all, his list contrasts significantly with Bill’s “PR is NOT marketing” approach. Who is right? Our careers began with a definition. Are you letting the definition manage your career? What is your take?

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  • http://internetbrandingstrategy.blogspot.com/2008/03/book-lauch-personality-not-included.html Ronna Porter

    There are two definitions for an experienced man: someone who has had 100 different experiences, and someone who has experienced the same thing 100 times.
    There are lots of different types of people, doing lots of different kinds of PR. Like you, I can’t be bothered continually arguing about why I am one, and not the other!

  • http://12commanonymous.typepad.com/ Lauren Vargas

    Ronna,
    Right on!

  • http://toughsledding.wordpress.com Bill Sledzik

    Hi, Lauren. I’m happy you dropped by the blog to check out my post. I hope you’ll stay with me in the coming weeks, as there are three more in the series.
    I’ll leave you with a couple of thoughts in response to your frustrations.
    Since you claim the title of “university professor” in your bio, surely you see the need to define a topic in order to understand and study it. But my post isn’t really about defining public relations, since a lot of folks way smarter than I have already done that. My post is really about explaining public relations to folks who don’t seem to know what it is.
    The blogsphere is full of lost souls who think PR and marketing are pretty much the same thing. And what’s sad is that many of them have no interest in learning from the rich literature of the field.
    Lauren, I’m not lumping you with this group, as I don’t know you and I’m not familiar with your blog. But to say, as you do, that “the industry definition is evolving” isn’t accurate. While all knowledge evolves over time, the generally accepted definition of public relations hasn’t changed in the past 25 years and probably won’t in the next 25. The tools of communication have changed, and radically, but not the foundations of the practice or the outcomes we seek to achieve.
    Read PRSA’s statement on public relations from 1982. Or Jim Grunig’s popular definition from 1984. The principles embedded in them are timeless.
    Oh, yeah. I don’t mean to insult the marketers with with my “evil twin” comments. It’s just my way of poking fun at them.
    But the fact remains, too many marketers know too little about the practice or PR, and a good many of those folks claim to offer public relations services to their clients. And sadly, most don’t seem at all interested in learning what it’s really all about. It’s all in the literature, and it’s a pretty good read.

  • http://12commanonymous.typepad.com/ Lauren Vargas

    Bill,
    You are correct there are fundamental differences between the practices of pr/mk, but communicators must understand and practice many forms of communication in their career. Many of us wear multiple hats. I do agree we need to get back to basics. The foundation of this blog is to improve the industry by improving our individual practices. I do not say our industry definition is evolving…I ask a question. I believe our individual definitions change when our context of thinking changes, but our values and principles stay constant.
    And, for the record, I don’t just claim the title of professor, I am a marcom professor for Northwood University.

  • http://toughsledding.wordpress.com Bill Sledzik

    Lauren,
    First, let me apologize for using that word “claim.” I didn’t mean to question your credential, I was simply surprised that a professor would make this statement:
    “I want to throw my hands up in the air and scream, ‘What gives?’ We are too busy defining and do not spend enough time practicing and sharing lessons learned.”
    If you look to most PR and Marcom blogs, I think you’ll find that they do share “lessons learned.” In fact, it’s the bulk of what they do. My focus on PR definitions is, sad to say, a lesson that way too many “practitioners” have yet to grasp. It’s my way of spreading the word.
    Now that I know your teaching focus is marcom and not public relations, our differences make more sense to me. And it’s OK to disagree, as it’s what makes Web 2.0 rich and interesting
    Let me close with a “hat tip.” To achieve the status of marcom professor at such a young age is quite an accomplishment.

  • http://12commanonymous.typepad.com/ Lauren Vargas

    Bill,
    Thank you. My passion is pr, but I do teach marcom. Sometimes I feel the texts are too confining. This is why I encourage my students to join the social mediasphere because of the lessons shared and the disagreement that leads to open minds and greater learning.