“Evolving Practice” in Public Relations

6 02 2009

Chapter 2 in Public Relations: Strategies and Tactics 9th Edition

In the “Evolving Practice and Philosophy” portion of Chapter 2, I was surprised to find that researchers consider the profession of public relations to have started as far back as the 1800s.  For some reason, until this class, I had always thought that public relations was a fairly new field that just came about within the last 20 to 30 years.  I was also surprised to find that from 1950 to 2000 marked some substantial changes in public relations.  

In the 1800s, public relations began with various land developers such as P.T. Barnum who began advertising their sales.  Before the 1920s, public relations had outstretched to journalism.  Once the roaring 20s had come along, people such as Rex Harlow and Edward Bernays had realized that one of the best ways to campaign is to gather feedback from the public.  James Grunig lable this the “two-way asymmetric” model.

In the 1960s is when public relations really began to evolve during the protests of the Vietnam War.  The majority of America was enraged at their government for engaging in war.  The protests of the war quickly began to filter into separate protests such as the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement as well as many more.  The book quotes that “This was the first expression of the idea that public relations should be more than simply persuading people that corporate policy was correct” (Public Relations Strategies and Tactics).  This experience was labeled as  “two-way symmetrical communication”.  

The 1970s began the era of investor relations involved with the stock market.  

From the 1980s to 2000, public relations morphed into a situational profession that maintained reputations for companies.  It is now a mediator between the public and a company so a company can best cater to the public it sells to.

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