Public relations needs a clean up

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Wikipedia is probably the starting point for anyone wanting to know something about anything – so why does its entry on public relations need a clean up?  Is this an example of poor PR for PR? 

I’m not suggesting the entry needs to be censored or whitewashed as the Guardian recently revealed some organisations are doing.  But the existing explanation of PR is a mess and Wikipedia notes it needs improvement to reflect the site’s quality standards.

As a profession we need to be honest and explain the many facets of public relations to those seeking to know more – that includes acknowledging some questionable practices and PR’s historical legacy of propaganda.  The current entry focuses far too much on Bernays and too little on standards of practice.  It is light on fact and contains unsubstantiated assertions – reflective of many PR materials, unfortunately.

By its very nature, the Wikipedia entry is likely to contain many different viewpoints on PR, but who should rise to the challenge and raise the standard of the current entry?  Should it be the professional bodies, academics, students or practitioners?  Any volunteers?

5 COMMENTS

  1. This is a very good issue which forces us all to consider the representation of our profession from a global perspective, implying of course that whoever picks up the task in the english language should inevitably also be prepared to make sure that coherent reperesentations be submitted in other languages (by the way, the Italian one, which I had never read, is very short and surprisingly acceptable..). The only explicitely global organizations that I am aware of are:
    ° global alliance
    ° ipra
    ° iabc
    ° icco
    ° ipr
    With the exception of icco (hopefully it will no longer be an exception..) and the ipr (but the relationships are intense) the other ipra and iabc are also members of the global alliance, along with other 62 national professional associations which could easily provide and adapt a basic entry for their language versions of wikipedia.
    The implication is that if the global alliance wished to take on this task in accordance with their first and second tier members (eventually involving also others), this could be fairly easily done. A suggestion could be that the GA ask one of its board members to coordinate a three month effort and see qhat comes out of it. Maybe it would be an excellent ‘done best practice’ to present at next year’s London World Public Relations Festival.
    I wonder what Jean Valin, Frank Ovaitt and Lou Capozzi think of this option….

  2. Toni
    I think your suggestion has merit. Adopting a common definitioin on a global scale would be an interesting exercise. I forsee some interesting exchanges as many of our members have already adopted a definition.

  3. Toni, I fully agree, it must be done. (Or as Jerry Garcia reputedly once said, “Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”) You can count the Institute in. I have a feeling that if the actual contributions are associated with noted academics, recognized senior professionals, and PR text authors, their credibility would rub off on this. No question, wikipedia is now the place where all things important are defined. We either get involved with that or get what we deserve. How can I help?

  4. Public relations (mostly agentry), as practised, is old (I added the bit in Wikipedia about Georgiana to make the point). But is this public relations? The start point (Bernays) for the USA is in psychology and as PR evolves it will have to take into account new developments in psychology (especailly what we now know from neuro-psychology as well as the disciplines including brain science and sapiens brian evolution.

    Why? Because as ubiquitous communication of rich content affects people very deeply.

    The definitions that include ‘relationship’ need a lot of research to make them stick and a lot of teaching and training to see them in practice.

    Those that include ‘communication’ have a problem too. The PR institutions are slow to grasp the breadth of existing and emerging communications platforms and channels.

    Those that include ‘publics’ will be confounded by user generated and permanently morphing ‘user generated social segments’.

    This will require the wisdom of Soloman.

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