[Originally written for the CIPR Friday Roundup.]

"Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."

And so concludes the PRSA's Public Relations Defined (#prdefined) initiative. Launched 30th October last year, the initiative has garnered considerable interest, both positive and negative.

On the positive front, I have seen considerable interest from practitioners, predominantly but not exclusively in the US as one might expect given the PRSA's geographic domain, grappling with the question of how to define what they do for a living with sincerity. No bad thing, particularly when some practitioners' perspective turns out to be, well, a little far off the mark.

These include too narrow definitions, making PR synonymous with media relations for example. And lopsided definitions, where the intent is ill-considered to entail exercising one's mouth way more than one's ears. (I've always liked the maxim that one has two ears and one mouth and should use them in that ratio.) It's a positive outcome that those who held such views have had their assumptions tested by their peers.

On the negative front, the initiative attracted some accusations from those who think along the lines of: i) it's bloody obvious; or ii) the profession must be in poor repair if it still has to ask this question in 2012.

Firstly, it's plain to see from the debate that the answer is not obvious – witness the heartfelt dialogue. Secondly, the profession is younger than many and has just been rocked by the advent of social media, so what's wrong with a bit of self-reflection?

The full conclusion to the initiative is published here and reported in the New York Times here.

For more background on the definitions around the world of PR and marketing, including the CIPR's, you might like my November 2011 post on the subject.