History & Evolution of Public Relation

History & Evolution of Public Relation

The first proofs of Public relation can be found in Egyptian Hieroglyphs(3300 BC): The “sacred carvings” shown in the background were commonly written by royalty, priests and civil officers to communicate prayers, magical texts, worship details, ideas about life after death, royal documents, biographies and calculations (e.g., the depth of the Nile River). They also depicted objects (boats, animals, tools) and ideas (motion, time) and were also found on pottery jars, ivory plaques and tomb walls. They also depicted objects (boats, animals, tools) and ideas (motion, time) and were also found on pottery jars, ivory plaques and tomb walls. 

Confucius is regarded as a great Chinese social philosopher, political theorist and lifelong teacher, advocated for the golden rule, “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” Working to improve society, he supported future leaders by starting a humanities program and promoted self-discipline and character building.

Public Opinion Matters. Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle heavily influenced Western philosophy. Based in Athens, Socrates (born 469 BC) engaged young crowds of thinkers in debate in public areas. Among his pupils was Plato, who documented and added to Socrates’ philosophy, as well as founding Plato’s Academy. Aristotle, student of Plato, created the first institution featuring a research library. Great thinker-philosophers known as “sophists” taught nobleman seeking public office the art of persuasion through rhetoric

The Boston Tea Party(1773). American colonist and Founding Father Samuel Adams was considered by some a “master of propaganda” who promoted political messages to oppose the British monarchy. Using the written word to motivate change, he famously inspired the Boston Tea Party, a tax protest he publicized to great advantage. Adams continued to lobby colonial leaders and helped convince the masses to declare independence from Great Britain. 

The break from Great Britain. Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, a plainly-written pamphlet to persuade the masses in support of the American revolution. Just five months later, the Declaration of Independence, written primarily by Thomas Jefferson when the Revolution was already in full swing, described the future government’s powers and principles. Thomas Jefferson, American president made its first usage of phrase public relation in 1807……while drafting his seventh address to congress, he scratched state of thought at one place and public relations at another

The beginning of the Protestant Reformation(1871) finds its roots in the “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” posted by Martin Luther to the Wittenberg Palace church door. The document, known as the “95 theses,” listed Luther’s grievances with the Catholic Church. Using the Gutenberg printing press, Luther supporters made copies of the theses, spreading the word across and beyond Germany.

(P.T.) Barnum was a master of Press Agentry, an early form of publicity which relied on “pseudo” events and often deception in the name of promotion. Known for displaying George Washington’s 161-year-old nurse and Feejee Mermaid, he also created “The Greatest Show on Earth” in 1871. This traveling show, featuring Jumbo the elephant, became Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1881. In 1884, Barnum sent 21 elephants, including Jumbo, and 17 camels across the Brooklyn Bridge to demonstrate its strength. 

Ivy Lee: The Public Shall Be informed. Issued by Ivy Lee to editors at city newspapers, the “Declaration of Principles” stated that the press and public should receive accurate and timely information regarding a company’s actions. Lee positioned himself as a mediator, believing rational people would make good decisions when presented with correct information. He was famously hired by the richest man in the world, John D. Rockefeller, and helped change Rockefeller’s public image from a vilified oil baron to a well-loved philanthropist.

The Committee on Public Information (CPI), or Creel Commission, was created by President Wilson in order to change public opinion to support the U.S. entering WWI. Led by George Creel (pictured, left), the committee used many techniques including posters, billboards and “Four-Minute Men”—volunteers who spoke at meetings and movie theaters. PR practitioner Edward Bernays (center) was active in the CPI’s Foreign Press Bureau, and Carl Byoir (right) acted as CPI’s associate chairman.

Edward L. Bernays presented the concept of a “two-way-street” between a company and the public in his groundbreaking 1923 book, Crystallizing Public Opinion. Within this dynamic, the public relations counselor was expected to explain the public to the client and vise versa. Contrary to the misconception of public relations as deceptive manipulation, this two-way approach integrated the public’s experience with the practice of PR.

Rise of in-house corporate PR(1927). The world’s largest companies relied on internal public relations counselors, including them among their senior-most advisors. L to R: Betsy Plank (Edelman), Paul Garrett (GM), Dorothy Gregg (Celanese), Arthur Page (AT&T, 1927) and Marilyn Laurie (AT&T, 1971)

Rise of PR during the Depression(1930s). During the height of the Depression, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) became the first industry trade association to create a PR department, launching a 13-year campaign to improve the public attitudes toward business. The campaign included movie shorts, leaflets, a radio serial (“The American Family Robinson”) and a daily column.

World War II saw the introduction of a variety of PR techniques(1942). In Germany, Joseph Goebbels headed propaganda movements for Hitler, ensuring all communication was in support of the Nazis regime. Across the pond, the U.S. created the Office of War Information (1942), to censor war news, document social change and create a central means for government to communicate about the war.


Philanthropic Phase (period from 90’s-beginning of second world war):

This phase dates back to 1892 when house of Tata founded J.N.Tata Endowment to provide higher education abroad to Indian graduate of exceptional merit. Earliest example of PR in India can be found in Indian Railways. In their effort to promote passenger traffic, the old GIP(Great Indian Peninsula Railway) railway carried PR campaign in England utilizing the mass media and pamphlets to attract tourist to India. In India, Publicity Bureau of this Railway introduced a travelling cinema which held open air shows of film at fairs, festivals and other places.

  In early First World War, Govt. of India undertook another form of PR to disseminate information relating to war to press and public. Central Publicity Board was set up with Stanley Reed, editor of the Times of India, Bombay.At end of war, In 1921 functions of this Board were taken over by Central Bureau of Information set up. In 1923, the Bureau was renamed as Directorate of Public Relations. in 1931 as Directorate of Information & Broadcasting.

Phase of Conscious Activity:

After 1939, PR entered the stage of conscious and deliberate activity due to the emergence of various factors such as mass circulation of nps, vocal public opinion etc. The house of Tata formed a public Relation Division in Bombay in 1945.

Post independence: The independence of India in 1947 mark its third stage.Emergence of Parliament, state legislature and IDR Act adopted PR policy, starting modern PR. In 50’s & 60’s companies like Dunlop, HLL, Esso, IBM, Philips and ITC set up their PR department to execute PR programs. Next phase saw the set up of professional org. of PR practitioners in areas like Bombay, Calcutta & New Delhi. PRSI formed in Bombay in 1958 followed by its wings in other states.

Although few localized sources in PR has previously run, it was not until 1968, when :

  • Ist PR conference was held in Delhi to win national recognition for PR as a profession…….this conference decide code of ethics and parameters of PR profession.
  • 2nd PR conference discussed status of PR practitioners in their perspective org
  •  3rd PR conference- proper understanding of the nature of the environment in the country and the changes the constantly take place.
  •  4th PR conference: Towards a More responsible Citizenship.

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Dr. Gitanjali Kalia

A learner at heart with 13 years of experience and still growing. From field experience to academic ambience, people interaction and exploring new ideas have been my area of interest and has proved to be stepping stone towards my achievements. Creativity is my core skill, be that vision to see the world or to work towards something aesthetically, creativity exists in everything. I am an academician by profession and the creativity is my passion. Academician: Shifting from advertising field to teaching advertising wasn't in my dreams but I must say it is one of the most challenging and coolest profession altogether. What keeps it ticking is to be with Young minds!! I have written research papers and got by books chapters published in the international books by international publications . Poet: I am a poet and got my poems published by Chandigarh Sahitya Akademi in Kavya Lehri and Kavyanjali. I also have an ebook to my credit titled 'Lyrical Emotions'. Writer(Blogger): A writer who loves writing and has written for numerous magazines, online portals and newspapers like Time of India(Youth section), The Identity, Contemporary Vibes, The Higher education, etc. A Blogger who runs her own blog. An artist who works towards improving her skills every now and then. A traveller who knows learning is much more outside the classroom. As a leaner is never satisfied with his/ her work, I believe to utilize the gift of human birth to the fullest and enjoy.

One thought on “History & Evolution of Public Relation

  1. PR development traced beautifully along with the development of civilization. A great insight indeed!!

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