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Definition of Public Relations

Updated on May 31, 2017

Please share the definition of “public relations” as you understand it to be in your organization or in an organization you regularly do business with as part of your work or home routines. You do not have to mention the company by name but rather identify the company by its function (e.g., phone company, bank, retail store).

The term public relations often means different things to different people based on their level of knowledge and experience with public relations. According to the Public Relations Society of America (n.d.) also known as the PRSA, the formal definition of public relations in 1982 was: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.” This definition remained the formal definition until the PRSA’s public vote in 2012; the vote led to the definition being changed to: “public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics” (PRSA, n.d.). The PRSA chose this definition because it centers on the basic concepts of public relations as a communication process, it is simple and straightforward, and it emphasizes mutually beneficial relationships. The textbook, Public Relations Writing: Forms & Style, defines public relations as “the art and science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organization leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization’s and the public interest” (Newsom & Haynes, 2013).

I am currently an after school counselor at an elementary school so public relations tend to be focused on parents and children. As a counselor I view public relations as the creation of a beneficial relationship between the school staff, the parents, and the children. It is important that the parents view the school as trustworthy or they would not pay the school to watch their children. It is also important that the children have a positive impression and relationship with the staff so that they remain happy. Counselors have to be able to effectively communicate with their superiors and the children in their care in order to keep the program running smoothly for the public. For the after school program public relations is all about keeping a positive relationship with the parents who trust the program with their children as well as the children in the program. My definition of public relation is the management function that supports the achievement of an organization’s strategic goals through the creation of goodwill with the public that it works with.


PRSA. (n.d.). What is Public Relations? Retrieved June 2, 2015, from

PRSA. (n.d.). PRSA's Old Definition of Public Relations. Retrieved June 2, 2015, from Definition

Newsom, D., & Haynes, J. (2013). Public Relations Writing: Forms & Style (10th ed.). Cengage Learning.

How do you think the quality and style of the written message affects the ability of an organization to practice public relations?

Public relations is “the strategic management function that helps an organization achieve its goals and objectives through building and maintaining goodwill with its various stakeholders/publics” (Newsom & Haynes, 2013). Public relations help organizations to achieve their goals through the message that they create and communicate to the various stakeholders and publics. In order for an organization to practice effective public relations the written messages created by public relations professionals must be high quality and composed in the correct style for the situation. The quality and style of the written message affects the ability of an organization to practice public relations.

For instance, if a new amusement park was being built next to a residential community, then the organization building the theme park would need to take care to send the correct public relations message to the various stakeholders and publics. The public relations message for the stakeholders would need to be formatted in a business formal style which would include information that would be of interest to the stakeholders. While the public relations messages for the various publics would need to be written in different styles depending on which public was being targeted. For the theme park customers the public relations message should be written in an informal style that would appeal to a younger audience and convey the enjoyment that park would bring to them. For the people who live around the area of the theme park the public relations message would need to persuade them that the amusement park would not prove a detriment to their daily lives and the ways in which their community could benefit from the park. If the organization’s public relations professions were to use a formal style of writing for the message designed to persuade people to visit their park, it would prove to be a low quality message that would not be very persuasive. In the same way if the message to the stakeholders was written in an informal manner the stakeholder might doubt the validity of the park’s ability to deliver on their goals and promises.

The quality and style of the written public relations message affects the ability of an organization to practice public relations because a poorly written or designed message can fail to persuade the intended audience. In fact such a message can serve to make people doubt the organization as a whole and cause them to place less stock in future public relation messages from the organization.


Newsom, D., & Haynes, J. (2013). Public Relations Writing: Forms & Style (10th ed.). Cengage Learning.


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