I have been reading an old(ish) book on the concept of attitude how it relates to behaviour. It has got me thinking about the Public Relations (PR) industry’s reliance on reputation to describe what we do.

Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour ( CIPR’s definition of PR.).

If you really think about it, reputation (often stated simply as some sort of evaluative dimension) is a difficult concept to pin down and is it even necessary to describe what we do?

Knowledge Vs Reputation

Say for example I wanted to get across the a particular idea or get you to enact a particular behaviour.

Let us say, a scientific revelation comes out tomorrow that a daily spoonful of vinegar is good for you. A campaign to communicating ways for you to fit a spoonful of vinegar into your diet does not necessarily have to alter the way your feel about vinegar (or spoons) to be successful.

Take for example the hypothetical goals and information that could be support them:

  • Increase blood donation –>The donor centre is short bus ride away
  • Reduce cancer risk in men – -> Learn how to examine yourself
  • Reduce fire fatalities –> Test your alarm every week
  • Increase interest in investment in company X –> X is considering floating next year.

Campaigns and PR can be about communicating new or changing existing knowledge or ideas rather than a global evaluation . Reputation is not always necessary to evaluate, formulate and talk about much of the work we do.

However, Reputations is the common thread between apparently disparate PR activity and sectors. It does describe a large amount of PR work and and it  is an important term to help others understand what we do. It is also a strategic term to to help PR get a foot into the boardroom.

Nevertheless, perhaps we should start to think about whether  it is enough and how we use? Are there other terms we could turn to or could we do a better job of defining reputation to help PR mature as discipline?


All content is copyright of Joe Walton. It is a fair reflection of what he thinks as a human being and PR professional. It does not reflect the views of any other person or organisation unless specified.

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