PR Is __________

What is PR?

Here’s the industry’s own definition: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

Say what? PR is a channel companies use to gain media recognition, and by extension public awareness.

My definition is easier to understand than a sentence with “adapt mutually to each other” in it, but is my streamlined definition right for today’s consumer-driven media?

According to The New York Times, the Public Relations Society of America is embarking on an effort to develop a better definition of “public relations,” one more appropriate for the 21st century.

“The definition is ripe for a refresh,” said Adam Lavelle, a member of the board of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association who is the chief strategic officer at the iCrossing unit of Hearst.

“Before the rise of social media, public relations was about trying to manage the message an entity was sharing with its different audiences,” Mr. Lavelle said. “Now, P.R. has to be more about facilitating the ongoing conversation in an always-on world.”

In other words, PR professionals now have direct access to the consumer, which makes PR much more like advertising than it was before.

Previously on AdPulp: Heard Over Lunch: Spruce Up Your Online Newsroom (Unless You Want To Be Invisible and/or Boring)

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Thanks for writing about the “Public Relations Defined” initiative and for contributing your own definition of PR. We certainly apperciate this exposure for the initiative and the support of the effort.

    Keith Trivitt
    Associate Director
    Public Relations Society of America

  2. Public relations allows for a two way communication between the company and the consumer. PR has transitioned due to social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which makes it harder to define. Although newsreleases are still used, PR has a much more diverse way to communicate a company’s strategic message.