But it is the lessons we learn from history that make its study important for us. In public relations we have the bene? t of important principles developed and employed by many 20th-century practitioners. Ivy Lee teaches us that we must take positive action in order to have something worth communicating. Harold Burson, who built the largest public relations agency in the world, stresses a business culture of “caring and sharing,” or “prize the individual and celebrate the team. ” Edward Bernays teaches us the importance of applying social science techniques to in? uence behavior.
This chapter presents the many individuals and social movements that have shaped our practice of public relations today. Learn the principles they developed, and be creative in applying them to the public relations discipline of the future. RHETORICIAN AND PRESS AGENT TRADITION The forerunner to modern-day public relations practice can be found in the work of rhetoricians, press agents, and other promoters. Since early times speechmakers, called rhetoricians, provided such communication services as speech-writing, speaking on clients’ behalf, training for dif? cult questions, and persuasion skills.
For example, by Plato’s day, ca. 427 to 347 BC, rhetoric as a distinct discipline was well established in Greece. The foremost rhetorician was Gorgias of Leontinium in Sicily (ca. 483–375 BC) who believed that the rhetorician’s job was to foster persuasive skills more than it was to determine if arguments and claims were true or false, according to Helio Fred Garcia. 1 Garcia also noted that even in classical Athens, public opinion determined matters both large and small, from important public works projects such as building city walls to the appointment of generals and other high of?
ceholders to settling matters of criminal justice. 2 Persuasive skills have been used to in? uence the public and public opinion for hundreds of years. Artifacts of what can be construed as public relations materials survive from ancient India, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome. The Crusades, the exploits of Lady Godiva, the actions of Martin Luther, and the adventures of the conquistadores seeking El Dorado have all been explained as examples of ancient public relations activities. The creation in the 17th century of the Congregatio de Propaganda (the
congregation for propagating the faith) by the Roman Catholic Church is often pointed to as a keystone in the development of public relations. The action brought us the term propaganda but was not a signi? cant development in a church that exists to propagate the faith. American Antecedents to Public Relations Numerous examples of public relations–like activities were identi? able in the early days of American settlement as each of the colonies used publicity techniques to attract settlers. In 1641, Harvard College initiated the ? rst systematic U. S.
fund-raising campaign, which was supported by the ? rst fund-raising brochure, New England’s First Fruits. 26 Chapter 2 • The History of Public Relations 27 Boston Tea Party staged by Samuel Adams. In 1758, King’s College (now Columbia University) issued the ? rst press release—to announce graduation exercises. Publicity techniques were even more prevalent at the time of the American Revolution and all subsequent con? icts or situations when power has been threatened or when public support is needed. Indeed, public relations has prospered most in times of extreme pressure or crisis.
Such were the circumstances preceding the American Revolutionary War, when Samuel Adams initiated what can be called a public relations campaign. Adams was to the communication dimension of the Revolutionary War what George Washington was to the military dimension. Adams recognized the value of using symbols like the Liberty Tree that were easily identi? able and aroused emotions. Adams also used slogans that are still remembered, like “taxation without representation is tyranny. ” Because he got his side of the story to a receptive public ? rst, shots ?
red into a group of rowdies became known as “the Boston Massacre. ” Adams directed a sustained-saturation public relations campaign using all available media. He staged the Boston Tea Party to in? uence public opinion. In the Sons of Liberty and Committees of Correspondence, he provided the organizational structure to implement the actions made possible by his public relations campaign. 3 Public Relations in a Young Nation In the infancy of the United States, public relations was practiced primarily in the political sphere. The publication and dissemination of the Federalist Papers, which led to the rati?
cation of the U. S. Constitution, has been called “history’s ? nest public relations job. ”4 Early in his presidency, Andrew Jackson appointed Amos Kendall, a member of the famous Kitchen Cabinet, to serve as the candidate’s pollster, counselor, ghostwriter, and publicist. Although he did not hold the title, Kendall effectively served as the ? rst presidential press secretary and congressional liaison. Jackson, who could not express himself very well, used Kendall as a specialist to convey his ideas to Congress and the 28 Part I • The Profession
American people through the newspapers of the day. Newspapers, for the ? rst time, were beginning to reach a rising middle class as a result of urbanization and advances in public education and literacy rates. Still, communication was primarily face-to-face because the majority of Americans lived on farms or in small communities. Publicity drove the settlement of the American western frontier, the biggest issue of the time. From Daniel Boone to Davy Crockett to Buffalo Bill, skillful and sometimes exaggerated promotion was the way to move easterners to the west.
Even Jesse James got into the act when he issued a news release about one of his particularly daring train robberies. Business leaders, too, became aware of publicity’s virtues. When Burlington Railroad initiated its 1858 publicity campaign, Charles Russell Lowell stated, “We must blow as loud a trumpet as the merits of our position warrants. ”5 P. T. Barnum and Press Agentry Phineas T. Barnum has always been considered the master of press agentry, a promoter with endless imagination.
Barnum promoted the midget General Tom Thumb; Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale”; Jumbo, the elephant; and Joice Heath, a 161-yearold woman (it was claimed, although an autopsy report after her death put her age at 70–80). Barnum used publicity to make money, pure and simple. When P. T. Barnum died, the London Times fondly called him a “harmless deceiver. ” As long as press agentry is used to promote circuses, entertainment, and professional sports, its negative potential is limited. Its use in business and politics, however, is more threatening. The Downside of Press Agentry
In the quest to gain media and public attention, press agentry can become increasingly outrageous, exploitive, and manipulative. Moreover, the manipulative attempt to gain the attention of the public through the media has an even darker side. In 1878, French sociologist Paul Brousse described what he called the “propaganda of the deed. ” The term refers to a provocative act committed to draw attention toward an idea or grievance in order to get publicity. For European anarchists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, propaganda of the deed meant bombing, murder, and assassination.
European sociologists feared that press agents and rhetoricians could incite mob rule, thereby making governments and societies less stable. This is the same tactic used by terrorist organizations through attacks such as the 9/11 suicide ? ights into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Terrorists try to use their attacks to draw attention to their propaganda. JOURNALISTIC AND PUBLICITY TRADITION Societal conditions surrounding the 19th-century American Industrial Revolution paved the way for a new dominant model of public relations practice.
The Industrial Revolution hit America with full force during the last quarter of the 19th century. The nation’s population doubled as immigrants rushed to the land of opportunity. New products and new patterns of life rapidly emerged. The enforced rhythm of the factory, the stress of urban life, and the vast distinction between the bosses and the workers were new and not always pleasant realities of American life. In fact, social harmony was generally breaking down as evidenced by rising con? ict and confrontation.