New York Times writes:

THE public relations industry has decided that it may be a good time for, well, a public relations initiative.

The industry’s largest organization, the Public Relations Society of America, is embarking on an effort to develop a better definition of “public relations,” one more appropriate for the 21st century. The effort, to begin on Monday, will solicit suggestions from the public along with public relations professionals, academics and students.

The effort, of course, has a catchy name, Public Relations Defined, and a logo, too, that proclaims its goal: “A modern definition for the new era of public relations.” The effort is being spurred by the profound changes in public relations since the last time the organization updated its definition, in 1982.

Attempts to write new definitions in 2003 and 2007 did not move forward, leaving in place this vague definition: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

Perhaps the most significant changes have occurred most recently, as the Internet and social media like blogs, Facebook and Twitter have transformed the relationship between the members of the public and those communicating with them. A process that for decades went one way — from the top down, usually as a monologue — now goes two ways, and is typically a conversation.

That has generated a spate of new terms that are used with, or even in place of, public relations, among them earned media, word of mouth marketing and buzz marketing.

The specialists final list:

After more than 900 submissions, 70 comments and 16,000-plus page views, it comes down to this: the final snapshot word cloud of the “Public Relations Defined” initiative. While submissions are still being accepted through 11:50 p.m. EST today (Friday, Dec. 2), we wanted to provide a glimpse of what your hard work in submitting modern definitions of public relations has produced — at least in terms of the raw data.

Keep in mind that what you see below doesn’t necessarily reflect the words that will comprise the three draft definitions that the PRSA Definition of Public Relations Task Force will develop the week of Dec. 5. They merely represent the 20 most popular words submitted across all four boxes of the definition submission field.

PRSA’s Definition of Public Relations Task Force will objectively analyze all of the submissions, along with blog posts, comments and all other submitted content. Task Force member will then use a subjective consultation process to develop three definitions from the data. Those draft definitions will go up for a public vote, for a period of 10 days, on the PRSA website.

After 12 days of submissions, the following are the 20 most submitted words to the “Public Relations Defined” initiative:

  • “organization” (present in 388 submissions)
  • “public” (373)
  • “communication” (280)
  • “relationship(s)” (260)
  • “stakeholders” (172)
  • “create” (170)
  • “mutual” (158)
  • “understand” (153)
  • “build” (152)
  • “audiences” (147)
  • “inform” (144)
  • “management” (124)
  • “brand” (119)
  • “company” (116)
  • “business” (112)
  • “people” (100)
  • “engages” (94)
  • “client” (92)
  • “awareness” (88)
  • “maintain” (81)

What’s to be, what’s to be … we will see in 2012.

Better tomorrow,

PR Pret-a-Porter.