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Fundamentals of communication,

The birth of a speciality: roots in antiquity, historic glimpse

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The second part of this book aims to familiarize the reader with the dynamic and ever expanding field of
public relations. It would most certainly constitute an injustice, if not an outright insult, for any author
to believe that the P.R. field could be 'squeezed' in a relatively brief part of any book and, indeed, as
the second part in the three part book you are reading. Even a brief presentation of highlights in P.R.
history, from its birth and development to its current status, could not be fairly and justly covered in the
limited space provided here. However, in line with the spirit of this book I will attempt to provide you
with a brief, concise and topical, but hopefully useful presentation of Public Relations, based on both
my academic and practitioner experiences gained during the last 4 decades.

To place the above space related limitations of a fair presentation of the P.R. field into the right perspective
I would ask you, the readers, to please stop your reading for a few minutes and do right now a short
amazon.com or Google search on the subject of 'public relations'. I would also kindly ask you not to
be surprised when you will encounter more than 150,000 titles on P.R. existing in the printed form as
hardbound and paperback books as well as in digital form. Furthermore, this number may not include
a host of academic articles published in scientific journals or popularized articles that have appeared
and continue to appear regularly in various daily newspapers, magazines and internet sites and blogs.

The presentation of the field of Public Relations as the second part of this book constitutes a brief but
simultaneously heuristic synthesis highlighting crucial events, processes, persons and practices from the
first decade of the 20th century to the current, second decade of the 21st century. The major assumption
and thesis of this presentation is that P.R. stands in very close relation to communication which was
the subject matter of the first part of this book. P.R. strategies, principles and tactics of communication
constitute an integral part of management activities in small and medium as well as large scale private
and public enterprises and organizations in today's internationalized or, as some prefer to label it,
globalized economy.

In this chapter we will delve briefly into the historical ancestral predecessors of public relations and
look into the establishment of the field as a new communication speciality in the beginning of the 20th
century highlighting the contributions of noted pioneers. This chapter will familiarize the reader with
the initial difficulties, pitfalls and search for an identity and a broadly accepted definition of what is
public relations and what it does. It will also familiarize the reader with the tools P.R. specialists employ
and use as well as the variety of activities they engage in while providing services to individuals, groups,
private and public enterprises and organizations.

Tracing P.R. roots in antiquity

It is a commonly shared reality in most, if not all, social and physical sciences, that the identification
of the exact time period of their inception, their birth and public appearance, remains elusive and this
reality holds true for the field of 'public relations' as well. Modern physical and social sciences, in their
rudimentary form and as a rule, trace their inception in antiquity, especially in ancient Greece, the
Greek philosophers and sophists and their theories on the universe and physical phenomena as well as
on human society examining human individual and group behaviour.

As is frequently the case with other academic disciplines, one approach in presenting the modern field of
'public relations' is by introducing the outstanding contributors to the field at the time of its inception to
present time practices. Another, not exactly opposite but rather complimentary method would involve,
vice versa, the examination of the sociological, psychological, economic and historical reasons which
facilitated, some might even say necessitated, the appearance, aided the persistence of and positively
contributed toward the survival and maturity of P.R. during the twentieth century.

There seems to be a consensus on the fact that the need to present and communicate the positive
characteristics of individuals, groups and institutions is not exactly a modern times desire and practice
but one that dates far back into antiquity and this assumption can be supported by evidence dating up
to slightly more than two millennia B.C.

Historical documents substantiate the attempts of individuals and groups within a given 'State' to gain
the attention and receive favours from Kings, Queens or other Leading figures wielding power and
authority. Furthermore, heads of groups or city-States made specific efforts in appeasing a stronger and
perhaps 'dangerous' Leader of another group or State by offering presents which ranged from ornaments
produced from precious metals or precious stones to the 'offering' of young men and women to be used
as servants or concubines.

In ancient Greek mythology, as discussed by Buxton (2004) as one among many others writers, King
Aegeus, the ruler of Athens, was obliged to provide the Cretan King Minos with seven young men and
seven young women from the nobility of Athens as 'offerings' to the Minotaur residing in the famous
Labyrinth built by Daedalus. The Labyrinth was so designed by its architect Daedalus that once a person
entered it, the exit was not just extremely difficult but indeed literally impossible for that person to
achieve. The Labyrinth was built to keep Minotaur imprisoned there and unable to escape by exiting it.
Minotaur, as the myth has it, a beast half-man and half-bull, was the son of Pasiphae, the wife of King
Minos who was born after she slept with a bull sent by Zeus.

According to the myth, which has a number of variations, King Aegeus who was obliged to offer 7 young
men and 7 maidens to King Minos and the Minotaur, put his own son Theseus in charge of the other six
young men and the seven maidens and send them to Crete. Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, who was in
charge of the Labyrinth, fell in 'love at first sight' with the Athenian Prince Theseus and, instead of letting
him fall pray to her half-brother the Minotaur, she conspired with him in providing him with a technique
ensuring his exit from the Labyrinth. The technique used was ingeniously simple: the Cretan Princess
gave to Theseus a tangle of rope that has come through the ages to be known as 'Ariadne's threat'. Theseus
proceeded to unfold the rope progressing into the Labyrinth thus marking his way in and then found his
exit by folding the string when searching for his way out of the Labyrinth. The myth has it that Theseus, the
son of King Aegeus of Athens and his valiant team members, fought with and did slain the Minotaur and
then managed to exit the Labyrinth and were set victoriously free using the string Ariadne had given him.

As Herodotus (2003) has reported, the classic 'good will' practice of offering fragrances or ornaments to
potential rivals was abandoned by the Persian Kings. They introduced a new demand consisting of the
submission of a pair of urns, one filled with water and the other earth (instead of expensive fragrances or
ornaments of gold and precious stones). These constituted, on a symbolic basis, the absolute submission
of the most valuable things a leader, a King or a Queen and their people had in their possession, namely
the land and the water used to provide them with their livelihood.

A historic glimpse at the USA in late 19th and early 20th Century

Some historians and sociologists, as well as philosophers and other social scientists use the German
concept of 'Zeitgeist' (meaning the spirit of the times) to characterize specific eras and epochs of mankind's
procession through history.

It is widely accepted that during the latter part of the 19th century American industrialists amassed
financial fortunes to levels never before encountered in any other known human society or any other
historic epoch. The emerging class of 'nouveau riche' in the USA, the so-called American Barons or
Captains of Industry, living and prospering on American soil, drew large amounts of criticism for their
life-styles, their extravagances and their overall behaviour. American Industrialists, Railroad and Mining
owners, Financiers and Bankers were derogatorily characterized and called 'Robber Barons'. According
to the Encyclopedia of the Spanish American and Philippine American Wars (2009, vol.1, p. 548) the
term 'robber baron' initially referred to a feudal lord, usually in Germany, who charged huge tolls for
merchants shipping goods through their lands or through the parts of German rivers belonging within
the borders of their land.

Looking at the socio-economic realities of that era I will now call your attention to some theorists in
the social sciences who have suggested that the writings of the British sociologist and scholar Herbert
Spencer, especially his concept of the 'survival of the fittest' borrowed from Darwinian theory, as holding
true for human societies, provided an 'excuse', as a scientifically supported underpinning, to the American
'nouveau riche' class. Spencer had proposed in his writings that an analogy could exist in human society
for what Darwin had suggested as a reality in the animal kingdom. Spencer's theorem, according to his
critics, embodied in the idea of 'social Darwinism', provided the American 'Robber Barons' with useful
scientific and ethical justification for their unprecedented financial successes and, to some extent, it
served to exonerate them of their extravagant behaviour and life styles.

In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in a chapter devoted to the British scientist, the reader may
find, among other remarks, the following:

'Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) is typically, though quite wrongly, considered a coarse social Darwinist.
After all, Spencer, and not Darwin, coined the infamous expression "survival of the fittest", leading
G.E. Moore to conclude erroneously in Principia Ethica (1903) that Spencer committed the naturalistic
fallacy. According to Moore, Spencer's practical reasoning was deeply flawed insofar as he purportedly
conflated mere survivability (a natural property) with goodness itself (a non-natural property). Roughly
fifty years later, Richard Hofstadter devoted an entire chapter of Social Darwinism in American Thought
(1955) to Spencer, arguing that Spencer's unfortunate vogue in late nineteenth-century America inspired
Andrew Carnegie and William Graham Sumner's visions of unbridled and unrepentant capitalism.
For Hofstadter, Spencer was an "ultra-conservative" for whom the poor were so much unfit detritus.
His social philosophy "walked hand in hand" with reaction, making it little more than a "biological
apology for laissez-faire" (Hofstadter, 1955: 41 and 46). But just because Carnegie interpreted Spencer's
social theory as justifying merciless economic competition, we shouldn't automatically attribute such
justificatory ambitions to Spencer. Otherwise, we risk uncritically reading the fact that Spencer happened
to influence popularizes of social Darwinism into our interpretation of him. We risk falling victim to
what Skinner perceptively calls the 'mythology of prolepsis'.' (Weinstein, David, "Herbert Spencer", The
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.
stanford.edu/archives/fall2012/entries/spencer/).

Attempting to counteract the extravagances of these Captains of Industry (derogatorily called 'Robber
Barons') the US Federal Government introduced the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Professor Rudolph
J.R. Peritz, (2008) commenting on the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act has noted:

'In 1890, the United States pioneered competition law and significantly strengthened the future of free
markets in the American system by adopting a new federal statute: the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. For
the first time in history, a national government had taken responsibility to investigate and, if necessary,
prosecute monopolies and price-fixing cartels. Over time, the results of this act, denounced by captains
of industry at the time of its passage, would become clear. By limiting a business's ability to dominate its
competitors in the marketplace, the new law made the American economic system more dynamic and
more open to new competitors and new technologies.' (in http://www.america.gov/st/educ-english/2008/
April/20080423212813eaifas0.42149.html) [accessed Jan., 2013]

Professor Peritz goes on, in the same article (2008), to mention President Teddy Roosevelt and his actions
that earned him the reputation of a 'trust-buster' as he notes:

'But in 1902, President Teddy Roosevelt took action that would make his reputation as a "trust-buster":
On his instruction, the U.S. attorney general filed suit to break up Standard Oil, whose predatory conduct
had come to symbolize the entire trust problem. Court cases can take a long time, but in 1911, the
Supreme Court finally held that Standard Oil had illegally monopolized the petroleum industry. Simply
put, its success had not been fairly won. The result was a decree to dissolve Standard Oil into 33 separate
companies known as "baby Standards."…The Anti-Trust Act was a resounding success, or so it seemed.
Price-fixing cartels were stopped in their tracks and the notorious Northern Securities and Standard
Oil trusts were no more…' (in http://www.america.gov/st/educ-english/2008/April/20080423212813eai
fas0.42149.html) [accessed Jan., 2013]

In The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899, 2007 p. 36), Thorsten Veblen coined the now well known
phrase 'conspicuous consumption' and placed it as the title of chapter four of his book. The term is
used by Veblen to designate the act of purchasing and using certain goods and services, not in order to
survive, but rather to identify oneself to others as possessing superior wealth and social standing. These
possessions and services are extras that are to a serious extent wasteful. They symbolize certain persons'
ability to buy and waste whatever they wish.

Throughout the twentieth century and up to our days it has become a well known and fairly well
document sociological fact that people establish an identity not only by what they do or say, but also
by what they can afford to purchase. The financial ability to buy certain types and models of cars,
houses located in certain areas of city centres or select suburbs, to shop in certain stores, visit certain
theaters, send children to certain schools and enjoy certain types of vacations constitute what have been
termed as 'status symbols'. All of these are social symbols to which society has attached connotations of
differentiating superior, middle or lower income and social class identity.

Closing this sub section it will be noted that the creation of various charitable foundations and their
financial support were considered by some as an attempt of the Captains of Industry to 'buy' some good
will, to present and project outwardly a more humanitarian rather than sinister image of themselves and
their enterprises. Notable examples of such efforts were, among others, the philanthropic institution,
Rockefeller Foundation (established in 1913 by John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) and The Carnegie Corporation of New York' established in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie.

From this prevailing 'zeitgeist' some critics of the field of Public Relations came to the conclusion that
this new activity of promoting and publicizing the positive aspects of private and public enterprises and
organizations was nothing more than a concealed effort to gain good will and acceptance in the public's
minds.

Defining the field of Public Relations

Providing a definition of a science, in the vast spectrum of physical and social sciences, or of a scientific
sub-field, is a familiar academic process and the reader would, logically and rightfully, expect to be
provided at this point with a definition of 'public relations'. The interesting, if not outright fascinating and
challenging reality, is that there appears to be a number of various definitions of P.R. both as an academic
discipline as well as the professional endeavour of countless practitioners working as independent P.R.
consultants or employed by internationally operating P.R. companies.

This plethora of definitions, or vice versa, the lack of a general consensus on one definition of what
'public relations' is and does, permeated the field for many decades during the 20th century. For some
critics of the field of public relations this constitutes an undeniable weakness, while for practitioners in
the field it constitutes a substantial strength for P.R. which, in a formally structured style, made its first
appearance at the beginning of the 20th century.

Heath (2004) has noted the definitions that one of the 'fathers' of modern public relations, Edward Louis
Bernays, had given for the field:

'public relations means exactly what it says, relations of an organizations, individual, idea, whatever with
the publics on which it depends for its existence…Public relations counsel functions on a two way street.
He interprets public to the client and client to public.' (p. 78)

Theaker (2004) has noted that many decades later, in August 1978, convening in Mexico city, the first
World Assembly of Public Relations Associations in what has since come to be known as 'the Mexican
statement' defined the field as:

'the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizational
leaders, and implementing planned programs of action, which will serve both the organization and the
public interest.' (p. 4)

In 1982, while holding its National Assembly, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) concurred
that a working definition of P.R. would be that 'public relations help an organization and its publics to
adapt mutually to each other.' (in www.prsa.org)

Harrison (2000, p. 2) notes that in 1987 the Institute of Public Relations, the UK's professional body for
public relations, provided a definition for P.R. which considers it as 'the planned and sustained effort to
establish and maintain goodwill and understanding between an organization and its publics.'

Morris & Goldsworthy (2012) indicated that several years later, in 1999 the UK based IPR (Institute of
Public Relations Association) expanded its definition to include the concept of reputation management
noting that:

'Public relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about
you. Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding
and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish
and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics' (p. 4)

Cutlip, et al (1985, p. 49) in a popular and widely used textbook on public relations define the field as'
the management function that identifies, establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships
between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends.'

In a New York Times article written by Stuart Elliott and published on November 20, 2011 under the
title 'Redefining Public Relations in the Age of Social Media' Public Relations Society of America (PRSA
is the industry's largest organization) announced that it was embarking on an effort to develop a better
definition of public relations.

Amassing a large number of definitions of public relations (1447 definitions in all) deposited between
2011 and 2012 by academics, practitioners and even the lay public who became interested in the PRSANew
York Times project a 'crowd – sourced' definition emerged:

"Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between
organizations and their publics." http://prdefinition.prsa.org/ [accessed January 25, 2013]

Misconceptions of public relations

Although this may hold true for other sciences, scientific disciplines and professions, the truth is that
while most persons have heard or are aware of P.R. as an academic discipline and a professional endeavour,
very few know exactly what it encompasses, what it aims to achieve and how it works. Some persons
still continue to conceive of public relations as a semi-scientific method for 'covering up' undesirable
truths about individuals, groups or private and public enterprises and organizations. Some others falsely
equate public relations with propaganda, while there are also some who understand public relations as
a series of techniques for beautifying ugly or even antisocial realities. The truth is that none of these
perceptions of public relations manages to even touch on the true nature, the aims, the techniques and
strategies that comprise the field of public relations as both an academic discipline and a practitioners'
professional endeavour.

Journalism, journalists and 'publicists' (this is an old term referring to the persons who undertook
the task of informing the public of certain events such as the arrival of a circus in town) preceded the
appearance of public relations and its practitioners. Indeed, as it turned out, it was persons who have had
experience as journalists that are credited with the creation of the field of public relations and became
the first public relations practitioners.

There seems to be a consensus found in most academic textbooks, as well as in so called practitioners'
books, concerning both the time of birth of the field of modern public relations and the persons credited
with the processes and acts of propagating it. Generally it is accepted that public relations appeared in
their modern form in the beginning of the 20th century and that four persons are associated with the
process of 'fathering' and fostering P.R. They are, Ivy Ledbetter Lee, Edward Louis Bernays, Carl Robert
Byoir and George Edward Creel.

For some Ivy Ledbetter Lee could be granted the status of being the father of modern P.R. while for
others this title belongs to Edward Louis Bernays. There is a third point of view in which 'fatherhood' is
split into two distinct roles crediting Lee with the father-practitioner role and Bernays with the fatheracademic
theorist role in addition to the practitioner role. Both are credited for creating public relations
in the modern public information model.

Brief profiles of four pioneers in P.R. history

Heath (2005 & 2010), Nimmo and Newsome (1997) and Tye (2002) are used here as the basic
bibliographical sources for sketching the brief historical profiles of the four pioneers who established
the field of Public Relations in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Ivy Ledbetter Lee was a journalist and a publicist before emerging as the first public relations practitioner
and counselor. He founded originally in 1905 the Parker & Lee Public Relations firm which was shortly
abandoned giving its place to the Public Relations Counseling Service 'Ivy Lee and Associates'.

During the first decade of the 20th century Lee was hired by the anthracite coal industry to help with
the settlement of a serious prolonged strike. Having been successful in this role Lee went on to serve
as a public relations counselor to railroad companies, to John D. Rockefeller and to the American
Government. He is credited with efforts to convince his clients, the anthracite coal industry owners,
to be open to the scrutiny of the public and the press as stated in his document titled 'Declaration of
Principles.' This document, published in 1906, has come to be considered by some as the historic, first
and formal P.R. 'press release'.

Edward Louis Bernays was an American born in Vienna, Austria. His father's sister Martha Bernays
married the famed psychiatrist and creator of Psychoanalysis Dr Sigmund Freud and apparently for
Edward Bernays this was a significant event that played a crucial role in his later professional life as
an academic and a practitioner. He served as a press agent and P.R. consultant. Bernays conceived of
public relations as a social science and applied, influenced by his 'uncle' psychoanalytic theories, basic
psychological principles in drawing public persuasion campaigns. As his career unfolded he consulted
presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge as well as a host of private and public enterprises.

The first university level academic course in public relations was taught by Bernays at New York University
and his theoretical views for the emerging profession of P.R. were presented in his 1923, now classic, book
bearing the title 'Crystallizing Public Relations'. He has been named by LIFE magazine as one of the 100
most influential Americans of the 20th century. His wife Doris Fleischman was also a public relations
counselor and offered her services to a variety of clients in education, arts, business and government.
It is widely known that she devoted plenty of energy and time towards the advancement of women in
media careers.

It is useful to note at this point that from the first course Edward Bernays taught in 1923 at the University
of New York, the courses and programs on the subject of public relations have seen a most impressive
proliferation. Indeed, in the last few decades, and at an increasing rate, literally hundreds of undergraduate,
post graduate and doctoral programs of study are being offered at hundreds of American, Canadian and
European Colleges and Universities on the subjects of public relations and communication.

George Edward Creel was a journalist who distinguished himself as an investigative reporter, owner of
his own newspaper (the Kansas City Independent) and editor of another newspaper (the Rocky Mountain
News). He was appointed head of the United States Committee on Public Information, an organization
created by President Woodrow Wilson during World War I, and considered by some as the American
Government's 'War propaganda' agency.

Creel as head of the Committee on Public Information used what was considered, at that time, modern
public relations strategy in promoting America's War efforts at home and abroad and rallying popular
support. In 1935 he was appointed by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt as Chairman of the National
Advisory Board of the Works Progress Administration (the Agency that provided employment to millions
of unemployed Americans in the great depression era).

Carl Robert Byoir is also considered as one of the founding pioneers of American public relations.
While employed by Hearst Magazine's publications he was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson as
a member of the Committee of Public Information serving with George Edward Creel. In the 1930s he
founded and organized one of the world's largest public relation firms.


  1. Communication is a universal phenomenon: system of 4 components
  2. Human Communication: scheme of human communication, defining
  3. Body Language: darwins contribution, intrigue of body language
  4. Mass Media & social media: stone inscription, printing process
  5. The Role of attitudes in human communication: defining attitudes
  6. The birth of a speciality: roots in antiquity, historic glimpse
  7. Publics, Public Opinion and its moulders: historical evolution, term
  8. Rhetoric, Persuasion and Propaganda: rome, love, definitions, variety
  9. Corporate Communication & Responsibility: corporate communication
  10. Press releases, special events and sponsorships: PR specialist
  11. Leaders and Leadership: pantheon of leaders, persons, injustice
  12. Leadership, Power, Authority & Charisma: events, political, financial
  13. Leadership research at the Universities of Iowa, Ohio & Michigan:
  14. Modern theories of leadership in Private and Public Enterprises and Or
  15. Instead of an epilogue: Women leaders remain under a glass ceiling:
  16. References: Bibliography
  17. The Author: Dr Georgios P. Piperopoulos, sociology, psychology