Thursday, March 04, 2010

Assignment 1; Histories: Academia verses Practitioner.

Academic definition:

“PR is about managing communications in order to build good relationships and understanding between an organisation and its most important audiences.” (Gordon, 1997: 5)

Practitioner definition:

“PR is the discipline that looks after reputation with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.” (PRCA definition, 2004: 6.)
Objective: discern which of the above definitions are most appropriate for PR.

Public Relations is a developing career, it is still young in terms of the time it has been recognised as an occupation. When PR emerged it shared a quantity of theories with other professions, thus creating a change in definitions depending on the standpoint of the practise.

Those teaching the theology of Public Relations will need to focus on an ethical perspective, so that students may enter the vocation with an understanding mind of what is expected from both company and audience; while people already in the work of PR will be more attentive on how to communicate between client and publics. The latter already understand the perspectives on their employment, and so the definition of PR to them would be focused on maintaining the attention of the target audience for the client, not the audience itself.

The Academic one leans on the idea that the target audience is the important aspect in the equation of PR communication; whereas the Practitioner definition describes the ongoing communication used by PR practitioners and highlights the importance of mutual benefits for both company and audience. This may be because the academic can take an objective view of the execution of PR in use as they do not have the responsibility of accounts and financial reviews, therefore can perceive the campaign set up without the profitable benefit.

One could suppose that both definitions could be viewed as Grunig’s [A]Symmetric theories (1984: 147). The Academic; with its view of the publics importance has a Asymmetric ideology to public relations; whereby the company is in a mutual position as their audience (or stockholders, retailers, etc) to possess the power of control over said company.

Conversely, the Practitioner definition can be alleged as Symmetric. It quotes the term ‘mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics,’ explaining that both require information and feedback from the other to continue on.

However, this definition appears to have the tone of an afterthought for the publics. The definition begins with the role of ‘looks after reputation’. One may consider the effect of this discourse, psychologically we as humans categorise and prioritise; the easiest route to this are lists. The definition has phrases, or more obvious key words, in a specific list: Reputation, support, influence, maintain, mutual, organisation and finally publics. The inclusion of these words show a respect and awareness to each one, but their order provides knowledge of the thought process when preparing a campaign.

The argument at this point is that the Academic also ends with ‘audiences’ and leaves it at the end of the definition, the ‘final thought.’ Alas, lexically they still differ greatly, Practitioner used ‘Publics’ which include a multitude of societies and communities aside from audience, whereas Academics specified ‘Audience;’ the latter lacks the financial necessity that attaches publics such as shareholders and employees, for example, to the organisation, causing the effect that the PR is focused on primarily on the target of the campaign, no-one else.

In Conclusion, the Practitioner definition seems most appropriate as it negotiates the many outlooks and skills required of Public Relations practitioner within the industry. The Academic definition left wanting in regards of differentiating between departments in the organisation that the PR practitioner shall work in.


TENCH, Ralph. YEOMANS, Liz. 2006. Exploring Public Relations. Essex. Pearson Education Limited.


PARTRIDGE, Eric. [revised by WHITCUT, Janet] 1942. Usage And Abusage: A Guide To Good English [third edition: 1999] London. Penguin Books Ltd.

CARDWELL, M and FLANAGAN, C. 2003. Psychology AS The Complete Companion. Cheltenham. Nelson Thornes Ltd.

Self Assesment:

Pros: I found I could appeal to the differences within the definitions given and had, in my own opinion, understood what was meant by the assignment task of which would be more ‘appropriate’.

Cons: Although I was intrigued by this assignment I found it very difficult to articulate, I feel as though I may have allowed myself to ramble within the discussion and could have got my point across better plus gone into the use of mutual and how this was an important word etc.

Self motivated task: plan assignments beforehand. Shirk the habit of writing out the thought process during the essay.

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