Public Relations History
How It All Began

Public Relations History / Organized Attempts To Persuade

Public relations is the management of information between an organization or individual and its publics.  Public relations is a multi disciplinary field with ties to business, politics, psychology, and media studies to name only a few. The history of public relations can be approached from a variety of angles ranging from intellectual to cultural and historical approach.

Some histories of public relations have focused on corporate public relations theory although it has probably been employed in one form or another as far back as the existence of civilization.  Most of the studies on public relations are approached from a business standpoint. The history of public relations from a corporate angle is incomplete. Political scenarios and social cultural situations would have made the appearance of public relations inevitable.

The first attempts at public relations were probably just attempts to persuade - a kind of crude public relations plan. The practice of trying to influence the opinion of the people to be more sympathetic to their rulers was attempted because these early politicians realized the importance of the support of the general populace for them to continue in the status quo.


Public Relations History / The Development

The profession of public relations owes its existence to three men who played key roles in developing the techniques known and used to this day. These are Ivy Lee, Edward L. Bernays, and Carl Byoir. The term Public Relations was coined by Edward Bernays when he found that the term propaganda had acquired negative connotations from having been used by the Germans during the war.

Ivy Lee is one of the most influential pioneers of public relations. He issued what was believed to be the first new release while he was working for the Pennsylvania Railroad when he persuaded the company to disclose information voluntarily to the press before they found out from another source that the company had had an accident with one of their trains. Lee was also the first to assert that practitioners have a responsibility that comprises more than just their obligations to their clients.

Public Relations History / Early Techniques

Edward L. Bernays is the self appointed father of modern public relations. There are techniques being used today that are standardized methods that Bernays invented during his heyday. He is credited with the campaign to get women to smoke by linking smoking to women’s emancipation. He organized a parade where debutantes held up cigarettes as symbols of freedom because he likened the cigarettes to the torch of liberty.

Bernays was a nephew of Sigmund Freud and so must have been somewhat familiar with the concepts of manipulation through psychological influence. The American tradition of bacon and eggs for breakfast also came to be because Bernays used testimonies from doctors and other medical professionals that proved that a hearty breakfast was a healthy breakfast.

Public Relations History / World War I

Carl Byoir started as a reporter for the Des Moines Register when he was 14. When he was 17 he became the editor of the Waterloo Times-Tribune. Byoir became a member of the Committee on Public Information in 1917. This committee was in charge of publicly organizing the objective of the United States for World War I.

During Byoir’s stint in the Committee on Public Information he executed many techniques that influenced public opinion. He was also credited with the campaign directed at non-English speaking Americans eligible for the draft. This campaign was effective enough that it added over 70,000 men to the American war effort.

Public Relations History / Public Relations Today

Public relations today is a multimillion dollar business. What started as plain publicity has now evolved to incorporate a multitude of uses. Although most of the developments in public relations came about because of political movements it is now used for a wide range of purposes from interpreting public opinion and their effect on an organization to finding ways for a business to achieve their goals.  

Thank you for visiting the Public Relations History page. For more information about public relations and how public relations can boost the reputation of your business follow these links:

Learn the art of persuasion. See the Public Relations Theory page.

Learn the basics. See the Public Relations Definition page.

Get on a handle on how to set a success campaign in motion. Go to the Public Relations Plan page.

Get resources that can help your business shine. See the Public Relations Articles page.

Get more see our Public Relations Magazines page.

What are the Functions of Public Relations? Find out here.

For a deeper analysis of PR go to the What is Public Relations page.

Get more Public Relations Theories. Knowledge is power.

See the top Public Relations Blogs here.

Get equipped to spotlight your business. See our Public Relations Tips page.

Need a Public Relations Proposal. We can help. More here.

Spotlight your product effectively. Find out more on the Product Public Relations page.

Build your business with integrity. Go to the Ethics in Public Relations page for more.

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