In a recent post, Mountainrunner poses the following question:

Which of the below completes this sentence: Public Diplomacy…

  • is the same as Public Relations. (PD=PR)
  • involves more than the practice of Public Relations. (PD>PR)
  • is contained within a larger practice of Public Relations. (PD<PR)

CB3 comments that it’s a question of perspective. As taught by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) in the UK, where Grunig’s assessment of PR is an aspiration, PR (or more commonly termed ‘communications’) is defined roughly as using communication (one-way publicity, press agentry and public information and two way assymmetric amd symmetrical communication) to support an organization’s objectives, at the strategic to the tactical levels. It is, or aspires to be, much more than presenting and promoting a cause, but also understanding, persuading and influencing. In terms of ethos and objectives, this points to a high degree of similiarity between PR and PD, although the specific mechanics and publics may vary, and the underlying motives may differ – i.e. a foreign policy goal versus an economic one.

Academic work by Grunig, Signitzer & Coombs, Gilboa, Wang and Yun all indicate a convergence of the practices over the last two decades, although the academic study of the interconnections between international relations and PR leaves much to be desired.

However, it is noteworthy that placing some form of firewall or hierarchy between the two practices can be counterproductive – there are many lessons to be learned in both PD and PR which may enhance the performance of both. And although PR often gets a bad press (especially in the US*), there are many PR practitioners who would be able to serve the needs of PD very well, certainly in the operational and tactical areas.

So, in apiration and ethos at least, PD=PR.

For a more detailed response see CB3’s previous musings.

Many communications practitioners could serve PD well ... but not all.

Many communications practitioners could serve PD well ... but not all.

*  Note:  However, the nefarious activities of McBride and Draper in ‘smeargate’ are certainly helping to tar the communications practice here in the UK as well.  Indeed, CB3’s comments in no way suggests that the PR industry in the UK is in any way better, cleaner etc than in the US.