Public Relations – it’s all in the name

Good to read justification of “publics” in the Priscilla’s World post The”P” in PR.  As she states, our function is not simply press relations – or media relations if we wish to expand the P to reflect broadcast and online. 

I prefer a more dynamic definition of publics than that used by the PRCA (full quote at Priscilla’s post).  Seeing groups purely from the perspective of the organisation simply identifies stakeholders – and encourages us to exclusively think about them in relation to our organisation.  That implies they are static audiences just waiting for our messages – a simple one-way communication of source to receiver.  That isn’t the reality of communications.

So the more interesting concept of publics is to identify those who are affected by, or involved with, an issue or problem.  As such, these people can clearly be seen as active rather than passive (even if this is only to the extent of processing or seeking information).  This is communication with not to and reflects more complex (but valid) models of communication where frames of reference, other sources of information, inter-relationships, societal context and other dynamics need to be considered.

Once we recognise that organisations need to build and maintain relations (the R word) with such publics (the P word), then PR can truly move beyond thinking just of static media coverage into resolving problems that present threats or opportunities to those with whom we work – and those who are connected to such issues.

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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 “Public Relations – it’s all in the name”

  1. I agree entirely – but now we need terminology that adequately expresses what you are saying. More importantly, expresses it in a way intelligible to a much woder constituency.

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