Definitions in Communications with a focus in Public Relations

The definitions provided explain commonly used terms in Communications Studies. Also, these definitions provide clarity to how each can be useful in the Communication job industry. This post has a specific focus for Public Relations as well.

Educational Focus

Communication Studies:

“Process of the interrelated elements working together to achieve a desired outcome or goal”

Barker, L. L. (1984). Communication (3rd Edition ed.). NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.

“The study of the social process of creating and interpreting messages that elicit a response”

David Levasseur. Professor of Communication Studies, West Chester University. (Ph.D., University of Kansas in Rhetoric and Communications).

Mass Communication:

“Process of synthesis: the sender is a complex organization that uses standardized practices to disseminate messages while actively promoting itself in order to attract as many audience members as possible, then conditioning those audience members for habitual repeated exposure. Channels of message dissemination are technological devices that can make the message public”

Potter. (2013). Synthesizing a Working Definition of Mass Media: Review of Communication Research. Retrieved from

“Mass communication” to describes the practice and study of communication through the media, the “mass” part of the term is gradually being phased out as the media continue to demassify. In common use, when people use the term “mass communication,” they typically include the broadcast media of radio and TV, and may include the legacy print media (books, newspapers and magazines) as well as film, sound recordings, and newer media, including the internet. A similar term that has fallen out of favor in some circles is “telecommunication” (which seems to have become a synonym for telephone communications, although historically the term has included a much broader range of technologies).

Thompsen, P. (2007) What is communication? Retrieved September 9, 2013 from:

Speech Communication:

“The study of the nature, processes, and effects of human symbolic interaction. While speech is the most obvious mode of communication, human symbolic interaction includes a variety of verbal and nonverbal codes.”

National Communication Association (2013). What is Communication? Retrieved from

Is the historical study of speeches. Years ago, the Communication field was known as the Speech Communication field, and at that point in time most Communication scholars studied public speaking (great speakers, great speeches, etc.).”

David Levasseur. Professor of Communication Studies, West Chester University. (Ph.D., University of Kansas in Rhetoric and Communications).


The process of making sense out of the world and sharing that sense with others through verbal and nonverbal messages”

Bebe, Susan, Bebe, Steven, & Ivy, Diana. (2001). Communication: Principles for a Lifetime (2nd Edition ed.). Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon, Inc..

The term “communications” typically is used to describe the products of communication: things like newspapers, radio programs, TV shows, films, etc.”

Thompson, P. (2007, March 7). What is Communication?: Exploring communication, technology and life. Retrieved September 10, 2013, from Exploring communication, technology, and life. :


Industry Focus

Industry: Public Relations

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

The Public Relations Society of America. (2009). What is Public Relations? PR Definition: PRSA Official Statement. Retrieved September 11, 2013, from


“Public Relations has been around for thousands of years, but wasn’t until the 20th century that the occupation got its name. Modern public relations came about during the Industrial Revolution and Progressive Era. The increasing amount of institutions, growth of democracy, and technological advancements in communications all helped tremendously in industries development. Influential figures in Public Relations included Theodore Roosevelt, Ivy Ledbetter Lee, and Edward L. Bernaysin. Downsizing in the workplace during the 1970s and 1980s had a major impact on public relations. While many corporate public relations department were eliminated, new opportunities for independent consultancies were created. By the start of the new millennium, public relations practitioners had taken a more public role — even on some occasions when they would have preferred otherwise. In a post-9/11 world, the profession is challenges on two fronts: building its own credibility while helping to build a global consensus.”

Pearson, A. (2013). A Brief History of Public Relations. Retrieved from

Similar Industry


To call the public’s attention to your business, usually for the purpose of selling products or services, through the use of various forms of media, such as print or broadcast notices.

Entrepreneur Media, Inc. (2013).  Advertising. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from


Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

American Marketing Association. (2013). Definition of Marketing. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from


Top 5 Companies

O’Dwyers recognizes these five Public Relation firms to be the leading companies as of March 11, 2013.

  1. Edelman
  2. APCO Worldwide
  3. Waggener Edstrom Worldwide
  4. W20 Group
  5. Ruder Finn

Public Relations Agency Rankings by O’Dwyer’s Public Relations News. (2013). Retrieved September 11, 2013, from


Top Publications

  1. International Public Relations Review
  2. Journal of Public Relations Research
  3. Journal of Public Relations Review

West, D. (n.d.). Introduction to Public Relations | Darcey West Morris – – Share research. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from Introduction_to_Public_Relations


Important Industry Associations

  1. PRSA (Public Relations Society of America)
  2. IPRA (International Public Relations Association)
  3. NSPRA (National School Public Relations Association)

Public Relations Associations & Organizations | From O’Dwyer’s PR News. (n.d.). Breaking News on Public Relations, PR Firms, and Media Relations. Retrieved October 2, 2013, from base/associations.htm






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