PR “Practitioner” vs “Professional” – Is There a Difference?

Kirk Hazlett, writing a guest post on Deirdre Breakenridge’s blog, suggests that there is a difference between PR practitioners and professionals.

Rather than being interchangeable terms, Hazlett suggests that practitioners are the tradespeople of PR—they’re skilled in the craft of PR but act primarily at the tactical level. Professionals have the same skills as practitioners, but they go a level deeper. Professionals think more strategically and guide clients toward more effective communications in the long term.

Hazlett is accredited by, and a fellow of, the Public Relations Society of America. He’s no slouch in the industry, so he may be on to something. I’m not a fan of his choice of words, though.

In the context of the PR industry, I view “practitioner” and “professional” as synonyms.

What Hazlett calls a PR practitioner, I’d call a PR technician. Technicians primarily write, edit and produce public relations messages. What he calls a PR professional, I’d call a PR manager. Managers are responsible for planning and managing public relations campaigns.

Regardless of whether you’re a technician or a manager, you need to be able to see the big picture and think strategically in order to be effective in your role as a public relations professional.

What do you think? Is there a difference between PR practitioners and PR professionals?

6 thoughts on “PR “Practitioner” vs “Professional” – Is There a Difference?

  1. I thought a practitioner is someone who does public relations duties using his own skills but has not gone through a formal training in public relations while a professional is someone who has been trained and passed certain qualifications to be called a professional. Its just my perspective

  2. Interesting perspective, David. When you say formal training, do you simply mean a diploma or degree, or do you mean accreditation by a professional association like IABC or CPRS?

  3. I mean diploma or degree or even a certificate, depending on what is set as the minimum qualification required for one to qualify as a PR professional. This would then act as a guideline for the “regulation board” to qualify or disqualify one as professional or not. I came across your article while searching for the difference between a PR practitioner and a PR professional which leads to the debate on whether government should license Public relations as a profession or not

  4. I’m not sure if government involvement is necessary, but I’m personally of the opinion that formal licensing by a professional association—similar to engineers, lawyers and doctors—would benefit the profession. It’d help keep unethical practitioners (used in the general sense of the word) out of the industry and give us something to fall back on if our employers ever asked us to breach our professional code.

    Self-regulation would be a good thing for the industry. But, again, I’m not sure if the government needs to get involved.

  5. Can we say a practitioner is a person who skillful in the PR job practically but no certificate or degree?…………….but a professional is also a person who skillful in the PR job practically and with degree or certificate?

    1. That’s certainly one way of thinking about it. David said essentially the same thing in a previous comment. I’m in favour of formal training for anyone working in PR, but I’m not sure if the completion of such training is a meaningful distinction if both individuals are able to do the same work with the same level of skill and professionalism.

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