Public Relations in America

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Background & Context

  • 1906: First press release on Atlantic City train wreck by Ivy Lee
  • 1929: Bernays stages models with cigarettes at parade smoking as part of campaign to increase social acceptance of women smokers
  • PR promotes that the news is a more credible channel to communicate with publics than advertising because of credibility
  • Today, the average annual PR budget in a publicly-owned company is $9.9 million. US government agencies average $16.4 million per year.
  • The global public relations industry is continually expanding. It grew by 8% in 2011, and currently employs 60,000 people worldwide.

Edward Bernays: “The Father of Public Relations”

  • Bernays coined the term public relations to avoid the negative implications of propaganda (because of its use by the Germans in World War I).
  • He based his practices off group psychology studies by his uncle, Sigmund Freud. He believed that by studying the motives of how groups think and act, it is possible to influence the masses to a desired outcome.
  • He successfully worked on President Woodrow Wilson’s ‘Committee on Public Information’ in 1917 to generate public support of American participation in WWI.

Prominent Public Relations Firms

  • Started in 1927 in Cleveland, Ohio
  • 84 offices in 46 countries today
  • Headquartered in New York City
  • “Citizens for a Free Kuwait” partnership with Bush Administration
  • PRSA defended against professional criticisms

  • Founded in 1952 by current CEO’s father
  • Currently largest PR firm in the world
  • 25% of annual revenue comes from Europe
  • Pioneered “litigation PR” in Westmoreland v. CBS
  • First major PR firm with a website (1995)