PR 2012: Driving Toward a New Definition of Public Relations

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PR 2012: Driving Toward a New Definition of Public Relations


The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has entered the second phase of its attempt to redefine public relations in the age of social media.

After 12 days of submissions, they have compiled a list of the 20 most submitted words to their  "Public Relations Defined" initiative.  Please note that "brand journalism" did not crack this list, but "brand" -- not surprisingly -- did. 

And to make it visually interesting, the PRSA has created a word cloud that represents this list and the otNoah Websterher words that were submitted.  "Organization" dominates this cloud, but it's interesting to see that neither "journalism" nor "stories" is part of it, yet "sale" is.

Now I do love how word clouds create really interesting visual images and are great for spicing up presentations.  However, the challenge is now how to pull a new definition of public relations out of this amorphous heap of words.  It will be interesting to see what they come up with -- and if it's any better than some of the other definitions that have been presented by agencies and individuals since this process began. 

It's too bad we don't have someone today like Noah Webster, the noted author of An American Dictionary of the English Language, the first dictionary truly American dictionary.  According to Merriam-Webster, he learned 26 languages, including Anglo-Saxon and Sanskrit, in order to research the origins of his own country's tongue.  Published in 1828, An American Dictionary embodied a new standard of lexicography; it included 70,000 entries and was felt by many to have surpassed Samuel Johnson's 1755 British masterpiece both in scope and authority.

Webster was willing to innovate when he thought innovation meant improvement.  He was the first to document distinctively American vocabulary such as skunk, hickory and chowder.  It would be very interesting to see how he might update the current definition of PR is his book: "the business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution; also: the degree of understanding and goodwill achieved."


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