Defining Public Relations Essay

Defining Public Relations Essay.

The question, “What is public relations?” is extremely difficult to define, and has concerned many public relations practitioners and scholars alike. Ask anybody, and more than likely the answers will be different. Public Relations (PR) deals with a broad range of attitudes and methods, therefore, it is not easily defined. Many communication scholars agree that definitions are inherently rhetorical and that the formations of definitions are social processes that shape reality. Since definitions play critical roles both in societal processes and in the minds of those who study and practice public relations, this paper examines several popular definitions of public relations as well as a personal definition derived from a workplace experience.

Most important, this paper explains that regardless of how public relations is defined, it is an essential element in the conduct of relationships for a vast variety of organizations in the 21st century.

Research Findings of Public Relations Definitions:

According to Fraser P. Seitel, author of the text, The Practice of Public Relations, public relations is a planned process to influence public opinion, through sound character and proper performance, based on mutually satisfactory tow-way communication.

In 1988, in an attempt to developed a simple definition for public relations, the governing body of the Public Relations Society of America (PSRA) formally adopted a definition of public relations which has become the most accepted and widely used. Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other. The definition implies the essential functions of research, planning, communications dialogue, and evaluation. Key words are “organization” rather than the limiting implication of “company” or “business”, and “publics” which recognizes that all organizations have multiple publics from which they must earn consent and support. (About Public Relations, 2005).

“Perhaps the best known definition of public relations is presented by Grunig and Hunt. In their introductory text, Managing Public Relations, Grunig and Hunt define public relations simply as “management of communication between an organization and its publics.” Likewise, most other public relations definitions also employ the three key terms: manage, organization, and public. Cutlip, Center, and Broom in the text, Effective Public Relations, state that public relations is the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and publics on whom its success or failure depends.” This conceptual definition,” they justified in an earlier edition of the text, “unifies the broad range of activities and purposes in public relations practice,” and “serves as a basis for determining what is not part of the public relations function” (Publications Relations Review, 1997).

Personal Definition Relations to Workplace:

In defining public relations and its role, the thing that comes to mind is the workplace, specifically, a non-profit organization, The ABC Science Museum. Public relations is as an essential function within the museum. PR reports directly to the Vice President of Marketing, and considered as a vital part of the marketing team. The PR function is responsible for the museums public reputation. The PR team works hard to develop and maintain good relations with the media. This helps to ensure the media reports information concerning the organization as accurate as possible to all the museum’s publics.

Overall, the PR function creates a climate of mutual understanding between the museum and its publics, which it serves as well as the community as a whole. Additionally, the role of public relations is to assess the perceptions of the museum, and where necessary work to develop a strategy to ensure the perception is the correct one. The marketing team oversees communications, advertising, and public relations. Communications, market research, and advertising all have a role in public relations. It is critical that these areas all work closely together to effectively influence public opinion regarding the museum’s image.

The ABC is an organization that clearly understands how public relations impacts society. Effective public relations should not only promote good will but also contribute to an organization’s stability and long life. Therefore, it is crucial that The ABC supports the entire marketing team in its efforts to earn and maintain goodwill and trust from all its publics. The museum’s ability to remain competitive and highly respected in today’s complicated and rapidly changing business is due largely to its marketing team, specifically, the public relations specialist.


As you can see, defining public relations is extremely difficult. It is clear that there are plenty of definitions and it seems incongruous that PR is still misunderstood. Although the definitions are somewhat different from one another, what is common amongst all of them are key terms such as manage, organizations, communications, and publics. “Managers in any organization need to have a healthy respect for the role of PR in their organization. Good PR can change the course of the future for an organization, it can change opinion and persuade, sometimes immediately” (The Practice of Public Relations, 2004).


Gordon, J. Public Relations Review, (1997). Interpreting definitions of public relations: self-assessment and a symbolic interactionism-based alternative. Public Relations Review, spring 1997 v23 n1 p57 (10) Retrieved on September 16, 2005 from website:

Public Relations Media electronic. What is PR. Retrieved on September 16, 2005 from website:

Public Relations Society of America, (PRSA). About public relations. Retrieved on September 16, 2005 from PSRA website:

Seitel, F. (2004) the Practice of Public Relations (9th ed.) Prentice Hall, 2004 Upper Saddle River, NJ

Defining Public Relations Essay

The Trouble With History Essay

The Trouble With History Essay.

Our history is what defines our character, shapes our social views, and gives us a sense of pride in how far we have come. The trouble with history is that it is presented to us as children through the interpretations of historians and textbook editors. This means that every few generations school children are introduced to “their particular version of America”, they focus on different events and ideas from the past, and develop their own way of thinking about our history and the world in general.

In “Rewriting American History” Frances Fitzgerald describes the differences between history books from her childhood and the newer ones from the nineteen-seventies; the examples show how the changes in content and perspective of junior high school history books affect the student’s view of the country and it’s annals. The message behind this comparison is that our image of history is shaped by the way it’s presented to us early on, which is why different generations of school children develop “their particular version of America.

The first step in understanding this essay is to analyze the points of contrast and similarity that the author concentrates on. His focus is on the political views, pedagogical approach, presentation and content of the two generations of schoolbooks.

In the fifties American history was taught with “weighty volumes”, which “spoke in measured cadances: imperturbable, humorless, and as distant as Chinese emperors.” It seems like the textbooks were collections of generally agreed-upon facts with an emphasis on glorifying American heroes such as Columbus, John Smith and Daniel Boone. This choice of content reflects the conservative ideals of a united, postwar America in the fifties. It’s easy to see how the views of society can influence the interpretation of history in contemporary textbooks.

In contrast to the older books, the author gives examples of content from some of the more modern texts. The focus has shifted from old American heroes to modern leaders and ideas like conservation and the Civil Rights Movement. Newer books also “hint at a certain level of unpleasantness in American history.” This is of course the writers personal opinion, but it sparks the question: Is this unplesantness a form of bias or just the result of a change in content? Aren’t the modern books just focusing on a different, less flattering part of our history, which was not mentioned in the fifties? That would mean that publishers have gained more freedom in what they can include and discuss in their textbooks. This could be the result of a more liberal attitude in our society.

Another point of contrast made by FitzGerald is in the physical appearance or presentation of the textbooks. The books of the fifties, when compared to the modern ones, “look as naive as Soviet fashion magazines.” They were simple in design and had conventinal, unprovacotive photos and drawings. Newer books have sophisticated design and high detail pictures with historical significance. They are hard to find pictures of antique objects and historical events. The problem with this presentation of events is that the beauty and intricacy of the pictures emotionally seperates the reader from the significance of it all. The author implies that the reader is really looking at a pretty design and not the pain and suffering depicted in the picture.

The political views presented in the two generations of schoolbooks are also interesting since they mirror the political sentiment of the country at the time. In the fifties the textbooks presented America as the greatest nation in the world, the only place where freedom and democracy reign supreme. This view was uniform across all textbooks, and gave children a feeling of security and trust in their government. This unity is absent in the newer books. They discuss problems in America: pollution, poverty, race problems, drugs, etc. They have different portrayals of the same historic events, such as the Civil-Rights Movement and the Cold War. This can lead children to distrust their government and question the truths established by the textbooks of the nineteen-fifties.

What I found most significant in FitzGerald’s comparison was the difference in educational approaches used now and in the nineteen-fifties. He compares the modern books to the older ones by saying, “In these books, history is clearly not a list of agreed-upon facts or a sermon on politics but a babble of voices and a welter of events which must be ordered by the hitorian.” While the second part of that quote uses subjective language, it still paints a good contrast between the two pedagogical approaches. The textbooks in the fifties were solid and unquestioning, while the new books analyze and question history. The educational approach is significant because it influences the students view of America and its history.

A lecture of facts creates a static vision of America and a sense of permanence, while the new learning techniques teach the student to consider multiple interpretations of the same facts. I think that this is a huge step forward in the learning process because it uses a familiar subject like history to teach students real world tools like critical thinking and objective analysis. This means that even though history keeps getting revised for every generation of school children, the process is moving in the right direction toward a better and more clear understanding of our past.

“Rewriting American History” opened my eyes to a very real and significant problem of “slippery history”. It shows how the content and presentation of history books shapes our view of America and the world as a whole. The light in which we see our country as children shines on it through our adulthood. The only comforting evidence is that educational material is improving and creating smarter, more open students. What this means is that improvements in our society are reflected in how we teach our children, and subsequently shape the views and realities of the next generation.

“What I Tried To Do”

I wanted to show how my idea of whats important changed as I examined and ranked more evidence. I started by looking at some of the general ideas and the evidence that supported them. This led me to examine the real world implications of what the author is describing. This kind of outside of the box thinking led me to develop the evolved thesis in the last paragraph.

Works Cited:

FitzGerald, Frances. Rewriting American History, The Norton Reader Pp.
463-471. 10th Shorter Edition, New York 2000. Peterson, Brereton, Hartman.

The Trouble With History Essay