By Jim Parham, Vice President, Chief Operating Officer
In March 2012, Gerard Corbett posted an article titled, “A Modern Definition of Public Relations” for the Public Relations Society of America. In this exciting piece, Corbett announced the winning “new” definition of public relations. About time. We were working off a definition from the early 1980s.
And here it is: “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”
But what’s more interesting than the update was the decision not to include the word “ethics” within the definition. A whopping 60 percent of voting professionals from PRSA said the word “ethics” should not be included. After all, don’t we assume as public relations professionals, we always operate with the highest ethical standards?
It would have been interesting to see this: “…between organizations and their publics in the highest ethical fashion.” Alas, that didn’t seem to be the majority’s viewpoint. I guess I get it.
But, when we look back at the history of public relations and the way the public views us in general, it may have been a good idea to include ethics in our definition. You know the terms we hear – “spin doctor,” “PR flak,” or “parsing of statements.”
We, of all people, should know that perception equals reality. Hence, let’s chip away at the negative connotations our profession endures by simply stating that we’ll operate in the highest ethical way.
Why would that hurt?