1920 vs. 2020: Did Public Relations Exist 100 Years Ago?

las vegas public relations

Believe it or not, public relations has been around for thousands of years. Although the term wasn’t coined yet, ancient civilizations used early forms of communications management and public influence.

To publicize military exploits, Julius Caesar may have used the first political campaign biography in 50 B.C. to persuade Romans that he would be the best head of state. In 1776, Thomas Paine published a series of pamphlets in support of the American Revolution.

However, the P.R. world that you know today has shaped and changed how the industry understands and uses communication and media. There are two different opinions about who deserves the credit for pioneering P.R. in the 21st century.


The Story of Edward Bernays

Many experts in the P.R. industry believe that Edward Bernays was the founder of modern P.R. in the 1920s. Born in Austria, he moved to the United States as a child. He was the nephew of Sigmund Freud, the famed neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis. Freud’s theory of behavioral psychology influenced Bernays’ P.R. strategies.

Bernays believed that the same tactics which the government used to influence public opinion regarding World War II could be used by businesses. He’s known for approaching P.R. as a science and developing his own methods.

As such, he’s credited with refining the news release and developing early P.R. theory. Most notably, Bernays is known for convincing the public that bacon and eggs is an all-American breakfast, not toast and coffee.


The Story of Ivy Lee

Other PR experts believe that Ivy Lee was the forefather of modern P.R. He started his career as a journalist for several newspapers in New York. In 1903, he became an adviser to John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Standard Oil.

The Rockefeller family and company had poor public images at the time after their reaction to several coal miner strikes. Lee convinced Rockefeller to visit the mines and engage with the miners. As a result, his reputation increase, and public perception of Standard Oil improved. Many believe that this marked the beginning of P.R. as a profession.

In 1906, Pennsylvania Railroad sought out Lee after a crash on one of its railway lines. The company hired him to salvage its reputation. His response was what is thought to have been the first news release, which invited journalists to the crash site. He offered them select details about the crash, and this crisis management was met with positive media coverage for the company.


Planning a P.R. Strategy for Your Business

As many large corporations understand, having P.R. professionals in your corner is essential for brand image and crisis management. If you need P.R. in Las Vegas, GYC Vegas can provide the services you need. This public relations firm in Las Vegas even provides marketing and special events services.

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