THE HISTORICAL TIMELINE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
-BY AASTHA NIRMAL
We have known public relations as a profession but we are unfamiliar with the fact that it has existed for centuries. From the ancient Egyptians period to the medieval era, people have used devices and channels to communicate crucial information to keep subjects informed of what’s occurring. Announcements of warfare, festivities, and other important events were done using these communication channels and devices.
Interestingly, what we know of public relations today was shaped centuries ago, in parts by these techniques. Let’s explore the museum of public relations historical timeline, before the 18th century till the 21st century
THE BEGINNINGS: BEFORE 18TH CENTURY
Around 469 BC, the Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle anticipated the importance of public opinion. Noble man was able to learn the art of persuasion through rhetoric, through the teachings of these philosophers.
In 394 AD, Saint Augustine served for the imperial court’s what we know as today’s public relations director. He would deliver eulogies to the emperor and general public to benefit the church. If we think about what Saint Augustine conducted then, we can call it a press conference.
While the true founder is debated, PR first served as a medium to manage as well as manipulate public opinion through mass psychology and sociology.
THE AGE OF PRINT: 18TH CENTURY
With the invention of the printing press, propaganda was very prevalent. It enabled prominent figures to circulate information to the masses and influence them.
At this period, there were many people employing public relations to support various causes. For instance, Benjamin Franklin promoted abolition of slavery, boosted national security, and enhanced education through the printing press. Public relations kept its relevance throughout this period.
THE AGE OF MASS MEDIA: 20TH CENTURY
As technology grew, the face of public relations transformed. The invention of mass media like television and radio paved the way for some new and effective public relations campaigns.
In the early 1900’s, Edward Bernays, now labeled a pioneer in the field of public relations, pulled off the most famous publicity PR stunt. He was hired by a cigarette company called Lucky Strike to increase sales. He discovered that a large portion of society who could smoke were women, but they didn’t because it was a taboo.
Barney changed this negative perception by creating a women’s liberation movement and making it a feminist affair. He conducted the Easter Sunday Parade in New York and paid women to smoke there. The event “Torches of Freedom” gained large coverage with photos and footage shown around the world through mass media. Women everywhere embraced smoking and sales skyrocketed.
THE AGE OF DIGITAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA: 21ST CENTURY
Public relations gained popularity in the early 2000s as the internet created a platform where information was readily available to the public. With the shifting media landscape, PR adapted to new forms of communication to remain relevant.
It limited the use of print media (magazines and newspapers) and the widespread availability of the internet gave rise to new media including blogs, eBooks, eNewletters, articles, social media and videos. Therefore, content creation became the key feature in building a well-established profile in mainstream media.
Intrigued by the history of public relations? Wait for our next blog where we talk about its pertinence in the present age!