If you are visiting the Institute for Public Relations website, if you are reading this as an email update to Institute friends and supporters, or if you attend events like our Summit on Measurement in September…
There’s something special about you as a public relations practitioner, educator, student, researcher or client. That is your commitment to and respect for what we call the science beneath the art of public relations™.
Conversations is a new interactive feature of the Institute website – a forum to share and discuss research-based knowledge in our field. With every installment, you will be offered the opportunity to respond.
So, let’s start with a bit of philosophy. In the Institute’s current strategic plan – which led up to this historic 50th anniversary year – the Board of Trustees offers this thought about what we do for a living:
No occupation attains the status of a profession without certain things in place. Among these are a substantial body of codified professional knowledge, educational systems to help create and disseminate that knowledge, and a commitment to lifelong professional learning.
This is true of medicine, law, accounting, teaching – and public relations. There is science underlying the art, and it is the working knowledge of that science combined with creativity that marks the best professionals.
A column that I authored for PR News last year sought to shed light on why practitioners and scholars have such different views of whether or not public relations is a profession. The article drew on a published paper by Betteke van Ruler, University of Amsterdam. “Are PR Pros From Venus and Scholars From Mars?” the title of her paper asked, as she described four well-known general models of professionalism. Sure enough, those models seem to correspond with divergent views within the public relations community.
Academic scholars gravitate toward a knowledge model of professionalism. When practitioners show little interest in theory, and formal PR education is not a requirement for employment, academics conclude that public relations is far from being a profession.
Practitioners, on the other hand, may instinctively prefer more client-oriented models: the competition model that defines a profession based on permanent competition to provide expert services; and the personality model, in which commitment, creativity and enthusiasm are hallmarks of a professional.
Adding to the confusion, van Ruler believes that public relations associations lean toward the status model, which defines a profession as an elite group using specialized knowledge to gain status, power and autonomy. The emphasis on accreditation is one indication of status model orientation.
But what do you think? Here’s the chance to hold up your end of the conversation.
President and CEO
Institute for Public Relations
PS – Having mentioned the Summit on Measurement above, I should also say that time and space are getting short. Sign up today if you want to be part of the annual conference for experts in measurement and evaluation, and practitioners who want a more focused research strategy.