Thursday, May 1, 2008


The other day someone at work remarked that they believe the Public Relations Society of America is all about media relations, whereas the International Association of Business Communicators is more focused on helping people become better communicators in general. This comment about PRSA being solely focused on media relations really got me thinking about my membership in the Society.

I have been involved with PRSA since 2006 when I joined the student arm of the Society, the Public Relations Student Society of America. Perhaps I latched on to PRSSA rather than IABC simply because my school had a chapter, but I have to think that despite this fact I still would have pursued PRSA. Call it a simple case of semantics, but for me two words in the names of the organizations say a great deal about what I believe my role is as a PR practitioner: relations and communicator. I believe strongly that my job is to help build relatioships with my organization's publics, not simply to communicate to them. True, part of building relationships with publics involves communicating with them, but communication is simply an aspect of what I must do to make this happen.

But now back to my co-worker's comment. Is PRSA only about media relations?

I think the answer lies in the people who make up of the membership of PRSA. If the members of PRSA perceive PR to be only about media relations than that's what's going to be discussed. For example, I counted 16 articles on media relations in May issue of Tactics. I, for one, think that many PR practitioners engage in nothing more than simple press agentry. Don't get me wrong, I believe good media relations skills are a must for all PR practitioners, but we must not limit ourselves to this. "Good PR" goes beyond a hit in The New York Times

A quick scan of IABC's vision and mission showed me that they are not too different from PRSA in what they are trying to help their members accomplish. I did, however, find it interesting that they listed public relations in a long list of other forms of communication (i.e. financial communications, employee communications, etc.). It seems there is a difference in how the two organizations define PR.

So maybe PRSA is currently focused heavily on media relations, but that doesn't mean it has to stay that way. One way to change that is for us as younger PR pros to help PRSA in "advancing the profession