Reflections on public relations

There are some great reflections on public relations online at present and I thought it might be useful to connect them here.

A rather long, threaded discussion at carries on the debate between the Strumpette and ToughSledding that had a brief stop here recently (?).  It combines ethics, the role of PR and social media in a fast paced debate.

At PR Conversations another fascinating discussion considers the ultimate purpose of PR.  As well as relationship management, it looks at a support versus strategic role with a call for synthesis rather than integration between PR and marketing functions.

GoodGreenPR offers another direction in looking at social marketing which is distinguished from PR as it is not about organisational reputation (or relationships) but involves using concepts and techniques to ‘achieve specific social goals for a social good.’ 

Although this separates PR from persuasion, social marketing acknowledges the fact that the techniques and tools traditionally employed by PR can be put to different uses.  But aren’t claims that one application is more ethical or virtuous than another disingenuous?  Who determines what social good involves?  Isn’t that at the heart of the Strumpette’s criticism about PR’s partisan role in building relationships?  Is ToughSledding happy to dismiss social marketing as the work of PR’s “evil twin”?

offers a similar challenge for PR practitioners in optimising relationships.  He advocates a rethink of the management skills required by those in PR to “execute complex communication systems which includes a high level of uncertainty and change.”

This acknowledges PR’s role in internet mediated communications, in terms of the public’s “capability to participate in the relationship dynamic”.   He is calling for understanding of uncertainty management and risk management.

There are lots of dimensions and directions to consider here – which only goes to show what a great learning resource is provided online totally free of charge.  Not long ago, those interested in the profession and study public relations could only have read such opinions in fairly dry academic journals or by signing up for courses or conferences at great expense.

Today, this high level debate is available to all – and even better, students, academics and practitioners can add in their own reflections.  This makes the profession come to life and enables everyone to contribute towards discussions.

That has to be to the benefit of the profession, regardless of what criticisms and challenges are being aired.

[Thanks as ever to Judy Gombita for pointing out some of these sources to me]

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on public relations”

  1. Why, thank you Heather.

    The power and influence of the Internet, social media and the ever growing impact across all aspects of organisational development cannot be under estimated. The platforms, applications and channels for communication will affect us all, our community and our organisations. PR has a central role to play. To be at the centre requires professional understanding of what is happening and a place at the core of strategic development. One of the most effective way for practitioners to gain acceptance for their work and ideas is through detailed and professional planning.

    In developing internal PR programmes (at the highest level too) as well as traditional media and online strategies there is a need to take into account social and communication volatility as well as the growing complexities. It affects everything an organisation does. This means that practitioners have to be able to deploy advanced management techniques to optimise motivations among people.

    At that level, the pinnacle of PR practice, there is a major opportunity for all.

  2. I must visit MyRagan again, I haven’t been since I returned from holiday. I enjoyed this point and David Phillips’ comment. I think PR can survive if it adaps and is professional and creative, it’s advertising that is suffering more with today’s growing social media. I was sorry to hear about Jessop’s closing so many stores, I used to buy all my cameras from then but am as guilty as the next person in using Amazon now instead.

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