Various blog posts and discussions over the past week or two have started me thinking once again about how many definitions of public relations there are, even—or perhaps even especially—among practitioners. The same can be said of many fields, although I suspect that in other fields there isn’t quite the radical difference that can be found in the PR field. For example, some PR people, and even some PR firms, define PR as an alternative to advertising: PR involves earned media, advertising involves paid media. By my definition, however, public relations is a process (of building, nurturing and leveraging relationships) and advertising is one tool that can be used in that process. Similarly, some people see public relations as one of many disciplines in the “marketing mix.” I would argue that public relations is the process of building, nurturing and leveraging relationships with a wide range of publics. Marketing is the subsidiary discipline of building, nurturing and leveraging relationships with one of those publics: the consumer. (It is my belief that those who define PR as an alternative to advertising, or as an element of the marketing mix are actually talking about media relations, or publicity. The conflation of media relations and public relations is a venal sin.) In any event, it also occurred to me that the time has come for a clear 21st century definition of public relations—at least as we at The Holmes Report understand it. This is my first, rough draft:

“Public relations is the business of helping organizations create policies, craft messages, and engage in conversations that enhance the relationships between the organization and its key stakeholders in order to maximize the benefits of those relationships to both parties.”

As always, I am happy to entertain other ideas, opinions and arguments. Perhaps we can crowdsource a definition that will bring some clarity to some of these discussions?