PR communicators carry out campaigns by integrating traditional public relations with social media. We have been the driving force behind using new tools to build a two-way loop between their organizations and their publics. It almost seems second nature.
Now the Public Relations Society of America seeks to better define public relations in the age of social media. Are we PR managers who only share the sanitized version of our story, or are we communication facilitators of stories, helping our organizations react and respond to our publics?
Those are the questions that will be considered as PRSA attempts to tackle a definition of public relations that has changed quite a bit since the last change in 1982.
I come down on the side of communication facilitator. Public Relations no longer resides in the realm where a communicator only touted the company line and expected people to accept it. If we manager anything in public relations, then it is the communication flow. We check the conversations and provide reaction and expanded transparency. Communicators no longer manage messages as much as we facilitate conversations.
Not that we haven't tried to manage the flow too as the New York Times points out with examples of deleting comments in the social stream to astroturfing the same stream in an attempt to influence perception. Clearly, these are rotten practices that should not fit into the new definition of public relations.
A new definition is needed for a couple of immediate reasons: 1) communicators need to be able to show we own the social media space; 2) right now anyone can claim to be in PR if they can manage a Twitter stream.
There is no clear owner of social media communications. It's like any blogger with a popular blog can claim to be in public relations one day and journalism the next. A definition would make it easier for the professionals to claim credit for their exceptional work in planning and facilitating the conversation.