Last week the Public Relations Consultants Association tweaked its name. It is now the Public Relations and Communications Association. A tiny alteration, you may think, but it is one that helps the organisation more accurately describe what it does. It also reflects the fact that many people in our sector would say that they work in comms in preference to using the term PR.
As a term, public relations has its devotees. Some try to claim that PR is strategic and comms is tactical, but given that the largest companies have a “comms strategy”, that doesn’t seem a particularly plausible distinction.
In practice, communications or comms is what big, in-house employers call the function officially. Indeed, it’s very rare, for example, to find a “director of public relations” these days. Recently, Tony Halmos, the revered director of public relations at the Corporation of London, retired – and the job title has disappeared.
PR, as it tends to be used by practitioners, is a useful colloquialism for comms, a term for communication that is aiming to increase sales to consumers, or a reference to media relations. Its two-letter initials are short and the general public has a feel for what it means – a good, well-paid job which is something to do with image or getting your message out.
I don’t think we should get too hung up on defining these terms – or being po-faced when they are used in ways normal people use them, rather than complying with the definitions from PR textbooks.
The PRCA name change will undoubtedly make the association appeal to people in marketing departments who wouldn’t naturally think of themselves as working “in PR”. And some internal communicators object to being called PR practitioners as they don’t deal with “the public”.
So the PRCA’s name change is a shrewd move that both cements the association as the leading voice in the comms world and also sets itself up for further growth.