The public relations industry continues to quickly change and develop before our eyes. As our industry grows, so does the confusion that surrounds it. There are numerous questions regarding public relations as a profession as well as areas of ambiguity that affect how others perceive public relations.
Public relations professionals have many different perspectives on whether or not public relations is a “profession”. There are three major viewpoints that have been adopted by industry professionals that attempt to explain if public relations is a profession:
- Frank Winton Wylie’s Commentary: Public Relations is Not Yet a Profession presents a rather dated hypothesis that establishes four basic requirements that constituted a profession. According to Wylie, public relations only meets one of the requirements and therefore cannot yet be considered a profession.
- Lynne M. Sallot’s Pluralistic Ignorance and Professional Standards: Underestimating Professionalism of Our Peers in Public Relations concludes that there is little consensus regarding professional standards among public relations professionals and practitioners.
- Magda Pieczka’s Objectives and Evaluation in Public Relations Work: What Do They Tell Us About Expertise and Professionalism evaluates value in the public relations practice and the ability for practitioners to effectively demonstrate their value to the client and other audiences.
Although we have come a long way since 1994 our field definitely has room for improvement. Often times both public relations professionals and practitioners define their occupational functions differently. If we cannot universally define our industry it may be difficult for others to fully comprehend what it is we do. In essence, without “universal” definition it can be difficult to prove our worth when we are consistently compared to other professions. These areas of ambiguity are the result of a lack of transparency in our industry; often times there seem to more questions circulating than answers.
Despite these areas of ambiguity our industry, we should appreciate our field’s growth, feel compelled to continue to examine these areas and somehow brainstorm ways to increase awareness of our profession. There is one overarching message almost every professional can agree on: a universal definition of public relations standards and values to help make industry’s brand more transparent for our peers and ourselves.