What Is Pr Used For In Modern Communication Media
PR in modern times has become more than a tool for communication management and evolved into a strategic practice of communicating message and developing mutual understanding between an organization and its stakeholders. Since its inception, PR has grown into different specializations and each specialisation of practice tries to perceive PR from their own point of view making it a complex task to develop a comprehensive understanding of PR (Rodgers 2008). As a result, public relations often emerged as something as complex as a 'distinctive management function' (Harlow 1976 cited in Tench and Yeomans 2009) and often as simple as 'communication with various publics' (Kitchen 1997 cited in Tench and Yeomans 2009). Even in some cases, public relations was perceived as a tool for 'manipulation against democracy' for supporting government and commercial agendas by overlooking mass interests (Moloney 2006 cited in Tench and Yeomans 2009).
Regardless of how PR may have been attempted to be perceived and defined, the journey of PR had began with the advancement of human interaction from its early days and have positioned its presence in different parts of the world over the years. According to Byerly (1993), the roots of PR in western and cultural histories reveal more information than its present history does. Therefore, in this essay, we will explore the historical emergence of PR under different circumstances and then identify the attributes which shapes PR's course of journey.
The history of public relations dates back to as many as hundreds of years with its presence traced in ancient civilizations. Powerful individuals and institutions developed persuasion as a form of public relations strategy to gain authority and control over public opinion. For example, Ceasar's Gallic Wars in 50 B.C. which was written to gain support for Julius Caesar's ongoing military progression (Litwin 2000) and massive architectural structures in Egypt to project the supremacy of the kings (Bates 2006). However, invention of the printing press in the 15th century (Breve 2006) and the use of propaganda in the 17th century by the Roman Catholic Church changed the course of PR and initiated communication between government and people (Bates 2006). Also, the use of newspaper in the 17th century gave people more access to information and played a significant role in making persuasion more effective (Breve 2006).
In the US, the history of PR started with the use of war propaganda during the War of Independence (1775-1782) (Breve 2006) and emerged as press agentry in the 19th century to save corporate images from the attacks of "reform journalists" and "muckrakers" (Byerly 1999, Bates 2006, Tench and Yeomans 2009). The ongoing crisis between media and business unveiled a new horizon for PR practice in history. A number of individual PR consultancies, press bureaus and in-house journalism were established across America to develop media relationship and disseminate news in favour of the organizations (Bates 2006, Tench and Yeomans 2009).
During the 19th century, public relations evolved from individual press agentry to expert counselling followed by industrialization, expansion of the railroads and introduction of social psychology (Bates 2006). Ivy Lee emerged as the first formal practitioner of PR in the history and emphasised on open, accurate and factual communication with media to win public understanding (Bates 2006, Tench and Yeomans 2009). Lee also emphasized on good publicity which depends on good corporate performance (Bates 2006). Based on these beliefs, Lee developed his public information model and published Declaration of Principles in 1906 which called for honesty with the press and public and are still being followed by practitioners today (Smith 2010, Bates 2006, Tench and Yeomans 2009). On the other hand, emergence of social science offered Edward Bernays, father of PR in the US and nephew of Sigman Freud, new scientific techniques to research public opinion and behaviour in a particular context (Tench and Yeomans 2009). Bernays combined PR techniques with the elements of social psychology and developed his perception of public relations as "the art of communications applied to social science" which reflected in his books Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923) and Propaganda (1928) (Bates 2006, Tench and Yeomans 2009). In these books, Bernays tried to provide the principles and practices for the emerging profession of PR (Smith 2010). He is also famous for his campaign for the American Tobacco Company in 1930s for boosting tobacco sales by promoting smoking in women (Bates 2006, Corporate Watch 2003).
Finally, the Second World War brought significant changes in the history of US and in the evolution of PR. First, it allowed US economy to recover from the Depression in the 1930s and made a wide use of Wartime PR strategies to gain public support for the war and promoted American interest to the world (Tench and Yeomans 2009). Secondly, the end of World War II offered an economic boom to the US economy which established growing markets at home and abroad. Based on the experience of PR's wartime success, private and public sector organizations realized the importance of PR and looked for PR efforts in promoting their products and services (Bates 2006). In a professional response to these circumstances, PR industry organized itself and established Public Relations Society of America in 1948 (Bates 2006).
The history and development of public relations in the UK began with the establishment of National Association of Local Government Officials (NALGO) in 1922which aimed at lobbying central government and presented facts to influence public opinion about the contributions made by the local governments to the public good (Tench and Yeomans 2009, Molleda 2006). In 1939, Ministry of Information was formed which united public opinion in support of Britain's role in the Second World War through war propaganda and factual information (Tench and Yeomans 2009). However, it was the end of the World War II that left new opportunities for the public relations industries and in 1948, Institute of Public Relations emerged as an independent platform of collaboration and communication between PR practitioners under the leadership of Sir Stephen Tallents (Tench and Yeomans 2009, Molleda 2006).
During the 1950s and 1960s, the corporate public relations in UK became stronger and saw an emergence of as many as 46 PR firms. A number of sophisticated PR networks like International Public Relations Association (IPRA) (1955), European Public Relations Confederation (CERP) (1959) and Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) (1959) were established during this time (Molleda 2006). By 1970s, PR in the UK had established its firm presence and during the '80s, the era of deregulation and privatization offered PR a turning point in its evolution followed by the growing need of pr in the booming business climate Tench and Yeomans 2009, Molleda 2006).
In the '90s, private sector in the UK reported a spending of £250 million on PR followed by the booming privatized business environment. High investment capacity and the culture of merger and acquisition, which began in the 1980s, contributed equally in excelling the modern practice of PR in the UK (Tench and Yeomans 2009, Modella 2006).
The concept of larger PR consultancies also began to emerge during 1950s when the industry was dominated by individual consultancies. Hill and Knowlton and Burson Marsteller became the first PR agencies to set up their network of global offices outside the US during the '50s and '60s (Corporate Watch 2003). Hill and Knowlton also innovated lobbying as a service to its clients in 1960s, which added a new specialization to PR (Corporate Watch 2003). On the other hand, Ogilvy and Mather became a pioneer in PR consultancy in the UK in 1948 followed by the end of the Depression and World War II, which presented opportunities for PR consultancies to flourish in a larger scale (Corporate Watch 2003).
In Asia, the history of public relations also emerged in Singapore during the 1950s when multinational oil companies resumed their business followed by the end of Second World War (IPRS 2004, Sriramesh and Vercic 2003). The practice of PR started with corporations like oil companies who followed a global guideline of having an in-house PR department, while others used PR as an alternative to advertise (IPRS 2004). In 1959, The People's Action Party (PAP) gained autonomy from the British through implementing a series of brilliant political, economic, and social management strategies (Beng 1994). After its independence in 1965, the government deployed intensive strategies to facilitate communication with citizens through trained professionals under the Ministry of Culture and Communication and most of these public strategies focused on educational campaigns like anti-litter, anti-spitting, speak Mandarin, etc. (Beng 2004, Sriramesh and Vercic 2003).
With financial prosperity, Singapore soon became the financial hub of the region and attracted multinational business organisations in the country. As a result, international PR agencies like Eric White, Burson-Marstellar, Dentsu, Young and Rubicam, Ogilvy and Mather, Hill and Knowlton, etc. established their global offices in Singapore to serve their multinational clients and inspired the local PR industry to grow in a competitive market (Beng 2004). In 1970, the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore was established as a professional body of the PR industry (IPRS 2004).
Since 1980s, the awareness of PR in Singapore has increased in both private and public sector with the strong support shown by the government (Beng 2004, Sriramesh and Vercic 2003). According to IPRS (2004), there are around 70 PR companies employing about 500 professionals in Singapore with an average sales growth of around 6% per annum.
Today, PR industry has become more strategic and dynamic over the years. The expansion of this multibillion-dollar industry is attracting professionals and academics from all around the globe and has become an integral part of business and political life. In 2001, global PR industry attracted revenue of $4.3 billion of the US alone earned $2.9 billion of this revenue. From 1990-2000, worldwide PR revenues increased by 250% and in the UK, the growth rate grew from £18m in 1983 to £401m in 2001 (Corporate Watch 2003). Followed by such phenomenal growth, large communication conglomerates like WPP Group, Omnicom and Interpublic Group came forward and acquired renowned PR agencies as a response to the growing global economy (Moriniere 2006).
Globalization and cultural diversity has remained as a major support to the growth of the public relations industry. While globalization came along with the challenges of formulating strategies to help clients in adapting cultural diversity, it also offered new opportunities for the PR industry to expand their network of global business. Many larger agencies have opened their branch offices in different parts of the world and have acquired or got affiliated with smaller firms to cater the rising global economy and the need for PR. For instance, The Omnicom Group alone has offices in over 100 countries to serve more than 5000 clients and WPP Communication Group, a British communication conglomerate, owns major US firms (Moriniere 2006). Global environment, cultural and religious norms, literacy and political system are some of the factors of globalisation that PR agencies had to understand and consider while developing the strategies for the clients.
Development of information technology and new media has contributed equally in shaping PR practices globally. It allowed PR industry to establish two-way communication with their target audience directly and without being misinterpreted or interfered (Inoue 1997). Online communication has significantly cut down the cost and ensured more productivity in less time. It has made communication much easier for the practitioners to remain connected with each other and share information on an urgent basis. (Moriniere 2006). On the other hand, rise of social media networking has allowed PR practitioners to research analyse and disseminate information to a group of audience. However, there is always a risk of presenting too much information through internet and chances of misrepresenting intended information cannot be undermined.
International public affair has also been influential in expanding PR's global base. Many nations in the world tend to hire international PR consultants in dealing with a crisis or to promote their national interest to their global counterparts. As a result, the role of PR in this context becomes more of a diplomatic one and increases its opportunities for a global recognition of the practice and business (Corporate Watch 2003). Involvement of Hill and Knowlton in 1991's Gulf War and Weber Shandwick's attempt to influence public reaction in China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics are strong examples of this.
The relationship between media and public relations is a symbiotic one. Media has been the prime vehicle of PR while on the other hand; PR has been an important source of credible information for the media. For example, impact of a news story can only be understood and addressed by the help of PR, which tends to analyze and shape public reaction to a particular context.
Consumers or people are the central element of all PR activities. PR's success depends on how best they can understand and be familiar with the attitudes and concerns of consumers, employees, public interest groups, and the community in order to establish and maintain cooperative working relationships.
The growth in public relations education in last 20 years has also become a significant phenomenon due to rapid globalisation of communication and media (Inoue 1997, Berger 2010). In the UK, University Stirling was the first university to award the first degree in PR in 1988 and by 1989, Bournemouth University and the College of St. Mark and St. John offered undergraduate degrees in PR (Molleda 2006). On the other hand, it was Edward Bernays in 1923 who taught the first college course in PR in New York University (Smith 2010) and in 1947, Boston University offered the first masters degree in PR (Moriniere 2006). Today, public relations have become a popular academic program in the US and many major universities offer courses and degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate level (Modella 2006). The academic discipline of PR has also expanded in other parts of the world. A multiphase research project launched by the Global Alliance, coordinated by the North American Commission of Public Relations Education and funded by the Public Relations Society of America Foundation in 2008 examined 218 educational institutions in 39 countries found that the study of public relations is mostly located within the framework of social science and the present curriculum emphasizes on the principles of public relations, research methods, scopes for professional experience, campaigns and in some cases media law or ethics. While undergraduate programs are focused on creating future practitioners, graduate programs more emphasize on advanced understanding or public relations and strategic thinking (Berger 2010). Although Donalt Wright (1997) argues that the materials for professional development in PR are of "general and basic" in nature and there is a lack of coordination and consistency in establishing a standard educational curriculum for PR.
As said before, even though the history of PR dates back to ancient civilizations, its modern history is quite a new one and will change with the evolution of time as consumers minds will change, as media will become more innovative and as organizations will evolve with new business practices. As a result, organizations and PR professionals should be prepared to adapt to the changes that a new history will bring tomorrow.
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