As a PR agency based in Essex and Cornwall, we pride ourselves on being absolute geeks when it comes to all things related to PR. From public relations’ humble beginnings to some little known facts about the industry. Read on to find out three interesting facts about the history of PR…

Early forms of public relations date back to 2200 BC

Although the practice of public relations hadn’t been founded yet, there were some individuals that shaped the PR industry before it had even been invented. The earliest PR influencer dates back to ancient Egypt – the academic Ptah-hotep who was alive in 2200 BC. Ptah-hotep wrote a book called ‘The Maxims of Ptah-hotep’, which discussed the importance of communicating with people.

The Greek philosopher, Socrates who was alive from 470 BC – 399 BC, was very opinionated on effective communication and how it should always be truthful. Ptah-hotep and Socrates were both right, in modern day public relations, communicating with people is a crucial part of the job when working on campaigns and projects for clients. It’s an industry expectation that all communication must be honest and transparent. This rule is echoed throughout the PRCA guidelines and in our company values.

In addition, the Roman general, Julius Caesar (100 BC – 44 BC) developed the first public newsletter which publicised Caesar’s military exploits. This formed part of a political campaign to convince the public opinion that he should be hired as the head of the state. The Roman general was right on the mark as modern day PR tactics include newsletter dissemination.

The term ‘public relations’ was coined by Edward Bernays in the 1900s

Dubbed the ‘father of public relations’, Edward Bernays was an Austrian-American pioneer who worked for different American companies and developed and oversaw public relations campaigns for them. Through his work, Edward coined the term  public relations. Notably, Edward ran a campaign for the United Fruit Company in the 1950s which was connected with a ploy from the CIA to overthrow the democratically elected Guatemalan government in 1964.

Not only a public relations professional who worked for government agencies, politicians and non-profit organisations, Edward was an established author. His books ‘Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923) and Propaganda (1928)’ were acclaimed for their efforts in theorising the public relations field when many people knew little about it. His work is still cited to this day by modern PR professionals – including us.

Public relations wasn’t seen as a career until Ivy Lee came along

American public relations expert Ivy Lee, is also seen as a major pioneer within the public relations industry. Born in 1877, Ivy began his career as a journalist for the likes of The New York Times and The New York World papers. But it wasn’t until Ivy had quit journalism and started working for the Rockefeller family, an extremely wealthy family that owned a company in the oil industry, that public relations became a viable career option. The Rockefeller family was suffering from a negative public image and in 1093, Ivy Lee encouraged the family to partake in the positive public act of engaging with the mine workers that they employed.

These workers had been badly treated and this simple act restored a positive reputation for the family with the public and the family’s workers. Since that moment, Ivy Lee worked with many different organisations and businesses, helping them boost their public image. Most notably, in 1906, Ivy sent out a press release (believed to be the first ever press release) on behalf of Pennsylvania Railroad, regarding a major train crash in Atlantic City. Thanks to Ivy’s stellar work, he was able to manage crisis communications for the company and changed the public’s perception on the company. It was Ivy’s work that highlighted the importance of public relations, thus presenting it as an important career option.

Ivy Lee was certainly ahead of his time and his publicity work and crisis communications are part of the blueprint for modern day public relations professionals. At Voice, we work with businesses to help them achieve their public image and brand value, utilising many of the techniques Ivy used over 100 years ago.

If you would like to chat about all things PR or to find out how we can help your business, get in touch with us!

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