The Unseen Power: Public Relations, a History

By Scott M. Cutlip | Go to book overview

Epilogue

A PERSPECTIVE ON TODAY'S PRACTICE

With these thoughts I conclude this chronicle of the early years of public relations as a recognized vocation in the United States, told through profiles of the pioneer practitioners and agencies that gave this function -- now worldwide in scope -- definition, utility, and, to a degree, acceptance of its necessity in management.

The essentiality of public relations as a management function that Ivy Lee envisaged in the early 1900s becomes clearer each passing day as our global information society becomes ever more dependent on effective communications and on understanding the complexities of an interdependent, competitive world. An organization depends on its constituent publics for success or even survival, internally and externally. In 1991, people witnessed Marshall McLuhan "Global Village" in all its power, glory, and worldwide impact, enthralled with war as theater presented 24 hours a day by CNN. It is also the public relations counselor's function to monitor the public opinion environment so that institutions can steer a safe and steady course through the winds and storms of the public climate. These storms come with increased velocity and frequency in this day of instant worldwide communication -- a factor with which Ivy Lee, Pendleton Dudley, Edward L. Bernays, and the other pioneers did not have to contend.

Today any institution, private or public, that does not have an effective radar system to pick up problems while they are still on the distant horizon or communications machinery ready to respond to a crisis when it occurs lives at its peril. For example, the President of the United States and his

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