It’s time to ditch the term ‘PR’

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Carole Scott
Carole Scott

This is an article by Carole Scott.  


I’ve heard that there’s a debate ‘raging’ about whether Public Relations and Corporate Communications are the same thing.

My response when I heard this? I had no idea, as I’m too busy getting on with the job.

But now that I do, I have no idea why a label matters. What’s more, I’m in the middle of a career that has spanned many types of communication and I’ve felt no need to paint myself into a narrow corner.

My current title is Head of Corporate Communications but I could just as easily be Head of Public Relations because the ‘public’ in PR equals ‘audience(s)’ and ‘communications’ equals ‘relations’.

Communications professionals – whether PR consultancy executives, social media specialists, corporate communications officers and the rest – are all engaged in a process that comprises five key elements:

  1. A communications strategy derived from organisational goals
  2. Identifying and understanding your key audiences
  3. Clarifying what we want and need to achieve from our relationship with those audiences – is it reputational, transactional, conversational, political, societal? Is it a mix of these?
  4. Planning and implementing the channels, activities, content and conversations that will achieve the result
  5. Defining our measures of success and measuring against them.

Every activity within the communications spectrum fits into one of those stages, from working with a small group of key stakeholders through to mass conversations on social media channels. Whether you are communicating with internal audiences or external ones, and whether your job is focused on strategy development or tactical delivery, every single one of us is employed to reach, communicate with and engage target audiences.

I do understand, though, that in the early stages of your career, job roles and definitions can help shape your decisions. So course leaders and trainers are right to focus on including communications in their scope.

PR used to distinguish ‘us’ from other forms of communications such as sales, marketing or advertising. Now that boundaries have blurred, I’d say it’s probably time to ditch PR as a defining term.

The communications landscape is changing and shifting at a phenomenal rate and the speed of change will only increase, not slow down.

Once upon a time, in a land of fax machines and word processors, we really only had live events, face-to-face stakeholder relations, print (owned or external) publications, and external broadcast media to play with. Now, we have a huge box of tools – not just the amazing array of technology and digital channels on offer, but diverse ways of creating, curating and sharing content, as well as the ability to measure in new and better ways. And with this mouth-watering menu, comes myriad roles to choose from.

Back in the bad old days of the 80s, my university careers service was hopeless. If you wanted to be in law, management consultancy or the City, they could tell you exactly how to do it.

But no one, not one single person, talked about careers in public relations.

So I had no idea that this was even an industry, let alone a profession. It is a wonderfully rich, diverse and stimulating career option and more so now than ever, thanks to the explosion of possibilities created by digital technologies.

The one constant is that we will be communicating to an audience, with a specific purpose in mind.


Carole Scott is Head of Corporate Communications for UK, Ireland and the Nordic region at Henkel, the company behind many well-known global brands such as Pritt, Sellotape, Loctite, Right Guard and Schwarzkopf.