March 22, 2012
More On PRSA's Definition of PR: If Don Draper Were a PR Man …
By Victor Vrsnik, APR, Principal at Vancouver's SPIRE Public Relations
My favourite Don Draper line from Mad Men is, "I don't sell advertising. I sell products."
If Draper were a PR madman, he'd likely adapt the line to, "I don't sell communications, I sell products," knowing that good PR softens consumer resistance and builds brand equity.
Draper identified his craft with his client's corporate objectives.
'What' he does is related to the outcome of his work, and that is to sell his clients' products. 'How' he does it is through advertising, an output.
Mad Men Season 5 is right around the corner, premiering March 25.
Too bad Draper wasn't around to chime in on the recent PR definition project launched by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
The definition was drilled down to three options and put to an online vote. The winning definition is this:
"Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."
Compare that to the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) definition of PR, hatched in 2008:
"Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals and serve the public interest."
If asked, Draper would probably give the nod to the Canadian definition of PR over the American one. After all, he goes for Canadian whiskey and Canadian women (he gets engaged to a girl from Montreal last season).
Unlike the PRSA definition and its process orientation, the CPRS definition has its sights set on the end game – managing relationships. Good relationships beget good reputations and powerful brands.
I would add that the thought leaders (Flynn, Gregory & Valin) who carved out our Canadian definition gave PR a future bridge to the professions by adding the imperative of public interest. Today's lawyers, accountants and engineers maintain their professional status by paying homage to the public interest, or risk being stripped of their rights and privileges.
When interviewed on Ragan.com about a possible PR definition, Edelman U.S. President and CEO Matthew Harrington said PR is about translating and communicating client messages. It's a great line for an elevator pitch because it answers 'what' we do, with a small 'w,' and people generally get it.
Big 'W' for 'What' we do is manage risk with strategic counsel and foster positive relationships with two-way communications.
Corporate outcomes make PR practitioners relevant and invaluable; moves us to the C-Suite; and puts us in a position to seize ownership of emerging technologies for communicating messages.
People who sell social media will always be hired to do social media. People who sell media relations will stay in the communications ghetto. People who talk in terms of corporate objectives get to do it all.