After an exhausting, year long effort that included canvassing every professional in every corner of the planet, PRSA finally came up with a new way to explain to all those skeptics what the heck PR people actually do for a living.

It’s the first update since 1982 to the generally accepted industry definition of public relations. A lot has changed in those 30 years but not our profession’s inability to do for us what every Denver public relations pro tries to do for our clients: come up with simple, clear, concise and consistent messages that communicate who we are, what we do and what we stand for. And why someone else should care.

Members of PRSA and other professional organizations were asked to submit their definitions. Out of 927 submissions, three finalists were selected:

“Public relations is the management function of researching, communicating and collaborating with publics to build mutually beneficial relationships.”

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

“Public relations is the strategic process of engagement between organizations and publics to achieve mutual understanding and realize goals.”

And the winner is, number 2. No one should be surprised that a profession that lives safely in the middle of the road chose the middle definition. It is, however, disappointing that PRSA picked such a textbook, bland and unexciting way to describe what we do.

When clients ask what PR is, I tell them public relations helps you uncover your story, decide who you want to tell it to, and figure out the best way to deliver your story to those audiences in a compelling way. If I have to explain to them that it’s a management function, I’m in trouble before I start. If I need to resort to industry jargon like calling an audience a public, I’m just not a very effective communicator.

I felt the same way about the social sciences when I majored in history. I felt that calling things like history and sociology a social science was phony nonsense from a discipline with a real inferiority complex. I didn’t want to be a scientist. That’s why I majored in history. Now I’m a communicator. I don’t want to be a bureaucrat. I just want to help my clients communicate.

So once again PRSA, you have failed to solve our biggest problem. It’s not about a definition. It’s about a brand. Maybe in another 30 years you’ll figure that out.