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Which Key Events and Individuals Shaped the History of Public Relations? p. 66

  • Although public relations is a twentieth-century term, the roots of this practice go back to ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman times.
  • The American Revolution, in part, was the result of such staged events as the Boston Tea Party, and the publication of the Federalist Papers help cement the federal system of the new government.
  • The 1800s were the golden age of the press agent. P. T. Barnum used many techniques that are still employed today. In addition, the settlement of the American

West was driven in large part by promotions created by land developers and U.S. railroads.

  • From 1900 to 1950, the practice of public relations was transformed by individuals such as Henry Ford, Ivy Lee, George Creel, and Edward B. Bernays. The concept moved from press agentry to the more journalistic approach of distributing accurate public information.
  • In the period from 1950 to 2000, organizations found it necessary to employ public relations specialists to effectively communicate with the mass media and a variety of publics. This was the age of scientific persuasion, management by objective, and strategic thinking.

What Are the Trends in Today’s Practice of Public Relations? p. 76

  • A major trend in public relations has been the influx of women into the field. Women now account for roughly 70 percent of public relations practitioners in the United States.
  • The public relations workforce is still overwhelmingly white. Efforts are being made to diversify the workforce to better represent ethnic/minority groups.

In What Ways Is Public Relations Evolving and Growing as a Professional Practice? p. 80

  • Four classic models of public relations are the press agentry/publicity, public information, two-way asymmetric, and two-way symmetric models. Although all four models are practiced today in varying degrees, the “ideal” one is the two-way symmetric model.

What Are the Major Professional Public Relations Organizations and What Do They Do? p. 81

  • Professional organizations such as PRSA, IABC, and IPRA play an important role in setting standards and providing education and networking opportunities for public relations professionals.
  • Freedom of speech concerns severely limit the concept of licensing in the communication fields, including public relations. Accreditation programs for practitioners, with continuing education, is an attractive alternative.

QUESTIONS for Review and Discussion

1. Which concepts of publicity and public relations practiced by P. T. Barnum should modern practitioners use? Which should they reject?

2. What four important contributions did Ivy Lee make to public relations?

3. The Boston Tea Party has been described as the “greatest and best-known publicity stunt of all time.” Would you agree? Do you believe that staged events are a legitimate way to publicize a cause and motivate people?

4. Describe briefly the publicity strategies employed by Henry Ford.

5. What is your assessment of Ivy Lee’s work for the Rockefeller family in the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company labor strife? Do you think his approach was sound? What would you have done differently?

6. Summarize the major developments in the philosophy and practice of public relations from the 1920s to 2010.

7. James Grunig outlined four models of public relations practice. Name and describe each one. Do these models help explain the evolution of public relations theory?

8. Modern public relations is described as “relationship management.” How would you describe this concept to a friend? A newer concept suggests that the purpose of public relations is to establish a “dialogue” with individuals and various publics. Is this a worthy concept?

9. Females now constitute the majority of public relations personnel. How do you personally feel about this trend toward feminization of the field? Does it make the field of public relations more attractive or less attractive to you?

10. Should public relations practitioners be licensed? What are the pros and cons of licensing?

11. How do “careerism” and the “technician mentality” undermine efforts to establish professional standards in public relations?