As a student studying advertising and public relations, it is important to not only enjoy the topics you are covering, but also to be aware of how these topics are defined and what they mean to the real world. In my new fundamentals of public relations course, I have been asked to define public relations in my own words. To go a step further, I will also explain what my preconceptions of public relations are before I have completed this course. My answer to these topics will cover what makes public relations special in my mind and why it is a useful construct.
To begin, I have defined public relations as: the coordinating or planning of events, or the aiding or creating of communication. To a degree, I partially relate my definition of public relations to how I would define a professional athlete’s manager or agent. For example, it is not entirely common that an athlete is the one to organize promotional events or talk to the media about a possible mistake that has been made (although they will have to answer some questions at some point). These tasks are typically completed by the agent or the manager, similar to how a public relations representative would handle a situation with one business and another.
Contrary to how I view public relations, my research has shown that there may not be one direct way to define what the job of public relations will indefinitely entail. According to an article by Cayce Myers, not only can it be difficult to define public relations, but it also requires context as to what legal ties the job has. In this piece, Myers discusses the Nike v. Kasky case from 2002-2003. For more on how Myers defines public relations and how it applies to the Nike v. Kasky case, you can read Myers’s story at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ S036381111530031X.
Another way to breakdown the work of public relations is to say that PR, “should function as a mediator, communicational unit providing mutual understanding and adaptation” (Kilic and Kalkan). With this definition, Kilic and Kalkan believe that public relations, “would be a strategic function and help organizations reach their ultimate goal.” I believe this to be similar to my definition of public relations in that communication is a primary factor in reaching a group’s goal, and that their job revolves around the coordination of events between two or more businesses or groups.
Finally, to tie in some of these definitions to a real world public relations crisis, I believe that the handling of concussions and their severity by the NFL has gone horribly wrong. Having played football for a decade and receiving three concussions in that span, as well as having a number of teammates that have received them too, I can confidently say that I have yet to notice any long-term ailments as a result of these concussions. Although I am still young and have not played at a level higher than high school, a concussion is still a concussion, and I personally believe that some of the findings and reactions to research have been slightly dramatic.
Bias aside, though, the NFL still has some work to do when handling the public relations end of the findings with player health. Gabe Zaldivar of Bleacher Report put it perfectly when he said that, “each report that comes out, including the startling revelation that former player Russell Allen once played after a stroke, forces people across the nation to wonder whether this sport is indeed too dangerous.” Again, having played the sport for a decade, I am a firm believer that football is not so dangerous that the sport should be discontinued, however, if the NFL continues to deny some of the findings by these research teams and fails to act accordingly to keep their players safe and in better health, fans will continue to turn away from watching the sport, and unfortunately, from playing it as well.
With the world of public relations–and the case with the NFL especially–I find PR to be special in that one right or wrong move can change the outlook of the public on something immensely. Having the power to make wonderful and terrible things happen in the world is an exciting and terrifying trait of an occupation, but someone has to do it.
Matt Henkel | GVSU | 6 September 2017
Kilic, Tolga and Kalkan, Faruk (2017, June). The extreme-capitalist face of corporate social responsibility and the stakeholder theory. ProQuest. Retrieved from, http:// http://www.rcis.ro/en/current-isue/2364-the-extreme-capitalist-face-of-corporate-social-responsibility-and-the-stakeholder-theory.html
Myers, Cayce (2016, Dec. 1). What’s the legal definition of PR?: An analysis of commercial speech and public relations. Science Direct. Public relations review (0363-8111), 42 (5), p. 821. Retrieved from, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ S036381111530031X
Zaldivar, Gabe (2014, April 23). 15 sports PR disasters. Bleacher Report. Retrieved from, http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2038398-15-sports-pr-disasters