The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History

By Scott M. Cutlip | Go to book overview

Prologue

Publication of this book is the culmination of more than 40 years of research in the history of public relations in the United States and its strong impact on American society, an impact that generally goes unseen and unobserved. As I have explained elsewhere, my research had its genesis in a series of stimulating conversations over lunch, over dinner, and in the late hours with two long-time friends, the late Merrill Jensen and Merle Curti, two great American historians of the 20th Century. On many occasions, Professor Jensen and I extolled the exploits of Samuel Adams and his hardy band in bringing off the American Revolution. My discussions with Professor Curti focused on the role of public relations in our economic, political, and social history. Like most academics, these and other friends were highly critical of public relations and generally saw it as a corrosive element in our society.

As an author and teacher in this field since 1946, 1 would repeatedly cite chapter and verse to these critics of the good for society that can be accomplished through ethical, effective public relations. This book presents ample evidence of this good (e.g., Carl Byoir's innovative fund raising that eliminated the fear of polio from parents' hearts). I held, and still hold, that only through the expertise of public relations can causes, industries, individuals, and institutions make their voice heard in the public forum where thousands of shrill, competing voices daily re-create the Tower of Babel. I did not and do not deny the harm done by the incompetent, the charlatan, and those who serve dubious causes. There is also ample evidence in this book of this harm done to the public good. For example John W. Hill's 10-year campaign to deny and obfuscate the damage to a person's

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